Bush Hails Elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestinian Territories and Ukraine

President Bush has hailed the recent elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories and Ukraine during his annual State of the Union address.

The president is speaking this hour in Washington to both houses of Congress and assorted guests, including a woman who voted in Sunday's Iraqi elections, and a woman who voted in Afghanistan's election late last year.

Mr. Bush also says Sunday's elections in Iraq opened up a new phase to U.S. efforts there, with an increased focus on making Iraqi security forces more capable.

Bush Pledges Ongoing Commitment in Iraq

President Bush says the mission in Iraq will succeed because Iraqis are determined to fight for their freedom.

Mr. Bush says the new political situation in Iraq opens the next phase of U.S. work in that country.

He says commanders on the ground as well as Iraqi government officials have recommended an increased focus on training capable Iraqi security forces.

He says as Iraqi security forces improve, the U.S. led coalition will step into a more supporting role.

President Bush told Congress that freedom in Iraq will make America safer for generations to come.

The president did not give a timetable for when U.S. troops will leave Iraq, saying it would "embolden" terrorists in that country.

He says once Iraq is democratic and at peace, U.S. forces in the country will return home with, "the honor they have earned."

The President says that during his inauguration speech two weeks ago, he renewed commitment to the guiding ideal of "liberty for all" - and now he wants to detail policy goals for advancing that ideal both at home and abroad.

Mr. Bush says the U.S. economy is growing faster than any industrialized nation and he says more Americans are going back to work. He also says the United States is an "active force" for good in the world.

The president also outlined his achievements during his first four years in office -- pointing to tax cuts, the prosecution of corporate criminals and the creation of more than 2 million jobs in the last year.

He said the budget he will send to Congress next week will make his tax cuts permanent and stays on track to cut the federal deficit by half by 2009.

President Pushes Economic, Immigration Goals

The president called small business the "path of advancement," especially for women and minorities. He said the country must free small business from needless regulation and protect such businesses from what he called junk lawsuits.

He also for the economy to become stronger, health care must be more affordable. He asked Congress to pass proposals that include tax credits to help low-income workers buy insurance.

He said the country also needs reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy. He urged Congress to pass legislation he said would cut pollution and make the country less responsible on foreign energy suppliers.

Mr. Bush said the country's immigration system is outdated. He said current laws punish hardworking people who want only to provide for their families, and deny American businesses willing workers.

He said it is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, while telling the government who enters and leaves the country and protects the border.

Bush Outlines Social Security Reform

President Bush says one of America's most important institutions, the federal retirement and disability system Social Security, is in need of reform.

Mr. Bush warned that the system is headed towards bankruptcy. He says Congress must join with him to save it.

The president says that currently, more than 45 million Americans receive Social Security, while millions more are nearing retirement.

While he said he wanted to reassure older Americans they will receive their benefits, he warned that younger workers may encounter serious problems with Social Security.

He says in 13 years, Social Security will be paying out more than it is taking in - and by 2042, the system will likely be bankrupt -- an assertion some members of Congress voiced disagreement with.

He says if steps are not taken to avert that outcome, the only solutions would be drastically higher taxes, massive new borrowing or severe cuts in Social Security benefits.

Security is tight around the U.S. Capitol, where the president is speaking to both houses of Congress and assorted guests that include First Lady Laura Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Leaders of the opposition Democratic Party will deliver a response to the president shortly after his address.

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