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Bush Has Easter Visit with US Troops


For the third year in a row, President Bush spent Easter Sunday with troops at an Army base near his Texas ranch. Mr. Bush attended Easter services with military personnel at Fort Hood, the home base of thousands of U.S. troops serving in Iraq.

President Bush prayed with his family at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial Chapel at Fort Hood. Afterward, he spoke briefly to reporters.

"We prayed for peace; we prayed for our soldiers and their families. It's an honor to be here at Ft. Hood to celebrate Easter with those who wear the nation's uniform," he said.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the top military officer in the Mideast spent the holiday with his troops. In a recorded interview aired Sunday on CNN's Late Edition program, Army General John Abizaid talked about the progress he has seen. He said there are encouraging signs, but added the sooner Iraq's political figures come to terms on a transitional government, the better.

"Obviously, the longer we have a delay in the formation of an Iraqi government, the more uncertainty there will be. The more uncertainty, the greater the chance for escalated violence," he said.

General Abizaid said most of the insurgents responsible for the current bloodshed are Iraqis. But he said there has been an increase in recent months in the percentage of fighters coming in from other countries.

"I think the percentage has increased, because there are less Iraqis that have decided to resort to violence," he said.

He said it is well established that some of the foreign fighters are entering Iraq from Syria, though he said some cross the Saudi and Iranian borders.

In a subsequent interview with CNN, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif, denied any direct involvement by Tehran.

"We have a very long border with Iraq. Our policy is to help in the maintenance of stability and security in Iraq," he said.

General Abizaid said both Iran and Syria need to do more to prevent insurgents from crossing their borders into Iraq.