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Bush Expects Iraq Violence to Escalate


President Bush says violence in Iraq is likely to get worse as next month's constitutional referendum approaches.

President Bush says terrorists in Iraq have a history of escalating attacks before major political milestones. And with a constitutional referendum in two weeks, he says violence there is likely to increase.

"As Iraqis take these next steps on the path to freedom and democracy, the terrorists will do everything they can to stop this progress and try to break our will," the president said. "They will fail. Defeating the terrorists in Iraq will require more time and more sacrifice. Yet all Americans can have confidence in the military commanders who are leading the effort in Iraq, and in the troops under their command."

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush told Americans that U.S. troops in Iraq have made important gains in recent weeks and months, adapting their strategy to meet changing terrorist tactics.

President Bush says he is encouraged by what he calls the increasing size and capability of Iraqi security forces. He says there are 100 battalions operating throughout the country, and U.S. commanders report those forces are serving with increasing effectiveness.

Pentagon officials this past week said only one of those battalions is able to fight without U.S. support. The top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, told Congress that the number is down from three battalions over the past few months because standards for the highest readiness rating have become more rigorous.

President Bush says U.S. troops will start leaving Iraq once Iraqi security forces are better able to control their own country.

Military officials say two U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday while on patrol in Iraq. More than 1,900 Americans have died there since the start of the U.S.-led invasion in March of 2003.

In the Democratic radio address, Washington state Senator Maria Cantwell called on President Bush to take more aggressive actions to reduce America's dependency on foreign oil.

"We want an energy plan that bets on American ingenuity and investment rather than gambling on the future goodwill of the Saudi royal family and the OPEC cartel," she said.

Senator Cantwell says making America more secure means less dependence on fossil fuel and foreign oil.

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