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Bush Encouraged by G8 Willingness to Help Iraq - 2004-06-10

President Bush has wrapped up the G8 summit of major industrialized nations saying he is encouraged by the response of world leaders to assist Iraq's new transitional government. Mr. Bush says he does not expect that support to include more troops from NATO.

President Bush hopes to use the new U.N. resolution on Iraq to build broader support for the country's interim government and says he is encouraged by the commitment of G8 leaders to help Iraq move toward greater security and elections next year.

Mr. Bush adds that he would like to see an expanded role for the NATO alliance in Iraq, a suggestion dismissed by French President Jacques Chirac who said that's not NATO's job.

Speaking to reporters at the close of the G8 summit, Mr. Bush said it is unrealistic to expect more NATO troops, but said the trans-Atlantic alliance may be used to help train a new Iraqi army once the transitional government decides how it wants to move forward.

The president says the success of that government is vital to stopping terrorism and promoting democracy through the region.

"The defeat of terror worldwide and the success of freedom in Iraq are the challenges of the moment. The spread of freedom throughout the Middle East is the imperative of our age," he said.

G8 leaders agreed to increase support for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa following talks with Iraq's new interim president Ghazi al-Yawar along with the leaders of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.

Noticeably absent from that list are U.S. allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia who declined invitations to the summit. White House officials tried to downplay that significance saying both countries are aware of the need for electoral reforms.

President Bush says those reforms must be individually tailored to reflect the needs and realities of each country and be driven by the desires of those people.

"I fully understand there was some concern when the initiative was first proposed that this was America trying to make the world look like America," he said. "It's not going to happen. I fully understand that a free society in the Middle East is going to reflect the culture and traditions of the people in that country, not America."

President Bush says G8 nations face a grave threat to their common security, but also have an opportunity to undermine the appeal of terrorism by supporting the advance of liberty and prosperity.

The president and Mrs. Bush returned to Washington following the G8 summit where they paid their respects to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan who died last week and whose body is lying in state at the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Bush will give the eulogy at President Reagan's memorial service at the National Cathedral on Friday.