|President Bush takes a question during a press conference at the Rose Garden of the White House |
Despite escalating violence in Iraq, President Bush says he is confident the new Iraqi government can ultimately defeat the insurgency. At a White House news conference, he also defended the treatment of detainees in the war on terror.
President Bush acknowledges casualties in Iraq are high. But he says the fledgling Iraqi government will ultimately prevail over the insurgents.
"I believe the Iraqi government is going to be plenty capable of dealing with them and our job is to help train them so they can," he said.
He notes the Iraqis have announced they have 40,000 troops already trained and on the job. He says it is a very positive sign.
"It's a sign that they, the Iraqi leaders, understand they are responsible for their security, ultimately, and that our job is to help them take on that responsibility," he said.
Mr. Bush also speaks in positive terms of the prospects for a diplomatic solution to the controversy over Iran's nuclear intentions, noting progress is being made. And he says he remains convinced that a multi-lateral approach is the best way to deal with North Korea.
Speaking to reporters in the White House Rose Garden, the president stressed that the United States is advancing freedom abroad, and bristled at the notion that America is setting back the cause of human rights through its actions in the war on terror.
He took specific issue with a recent report from Amnesty International, which compared U.S. detention facilities to the prison camps, or gulags, of the Soviet Union. The president called the comparison "absurd."
"It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word and allegations of people who were held in detention, people who hate America," he said.
During his news conference, President Bush was also asked about the fate of Mikhail Khordorkovsky, the Russian oil magnate who was sentenced to nine years in prison on tax evasion and fraud charges.
There are concerns that the trial was orchestrated by the Kremlin to silence a political threat. Mr. Bush said he has discussed the case with Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding he is watching closely to see what happens next.
"What will be interesting to see is whether or not he appeals [the verdict]," he said. "I think he is going to appeal. And then how the appeal will be handled. And so we are watching the ongoing case."
Although many of the questions dealt with foreign policy, the president opened the news conference by calling on Congress to pass his domestic agenda. He urged lawmakers, who are currently on a holiday (Memorial Day) recess, to approve his energy plan, a cost-cutting budget, and an initiative to reform the massive government program that provides pensions for the elderly. He also urged members of the Senate to approve his nominee for the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, saying that Democrats are using stalling tactics to delay a vote on John Bolton.