President Bush says elections in Iraq scheduled for January 30 will help reduce the threat of future terrorist attacks. President Bush and Chilean President Ricardo Lagos reviewed an honor guard at the presidential palace and met for about 40 minutes following the end of the APEC summit.
Taking questions from reporters after those talks, President Bush said he recognizes that President Lagos did not agree with his decision to invade Iraq. Mr. Bush says he respects that opposition, and the Chilean leader is still his friend. "It's important to develop a democracy there. I fully recognize some do not believe that a democracy can take hold in Iraq. I strongly disagree. I believe not only democracy can take hold in Iraq, I believe a democracy will take hold in Iraq," he said.
President Bush says Iraqi elections scheduled for the end of January are an important step forward for the country.
He said interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is a strong, capable democrat who believes in the possibilities of the people of Iraq and knows that those possibilities will be unleashed in a free society. "And so the United States of America will stay the course and we will complete the task. We will help Iraq develop a democracy and the world will be better off for it. Free societies don't attack each other. Democracies listen to the aspirations of their people, not feed hatred and resentment and future terrorists. What we are doing is the right thing in Iraq. And history will prove it right," he said.
Many of the 21 members of the APEC forum opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Several days of street demonstrations here in Santiago protested that invasion and recent fighting in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
President Bush says whether people agree with his decision or not, there are two things, he says, that people must agree with: that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power and that it is important to succeed in Iraq by developing a democracy there.
Continuing violence in Iraq has raised questions about whether January elections can proceed, and if so, how many Iraqis in what areas will be able to cast their ballots. U.S. military commanders in Iraq say they are on track to establish sufficient security ahead of the vote.
With the APEC summit closed, President Bush leaves for Colombia Monday for talks with President Alvaro Uribe on continuing efforts to stop the flow of illegal narcotics.
The two leaders will take questions from reporters at Colombia's naval academy before the president and Mrs. Bush return to their Texas ranch.