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Bush Backs Iraq Draft Constitution

President Bush is praising Iraq's draft constitution, saying U.S. troops there will stay on the offensive against insurgents until a new government can better defend itself. Mr. Bush is facing falling public support for the war in Iraq.

President Bush says Iraq's draft constitution guarantees freedoms for all its citizens while protecting fundamental human rights of expression, religion, and assembly.

"This constitution is the result of democratic debate and compromise, and the Iraqi citizens can be proud of what they have accomplished," said Mr. Bush.

Sunni legislators oppose provisions of the draft constitution that grant ethnic Kurd and Shiite areas greater local autonomy in a more federal structure of government. Some Sunni leaders have called for supporters to vote against the constitution in a national referendum October 15t

Iraqi Vice President Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar says he believes Sunni Arabs will not be able to vote down the document. He says they should focus instead on parliamentary elections in December in hopes of winning enough seats to change the way the constitution is implemented.

As violence continues in Iraq, President Bush says U.S. troops will stay on the offensive against insurgents who he says are waging a brutal campaign of terror, killing innocent civilians in hopes of scaring Iraqis away from democracy.

"They are trying to break the will of the American people," added Mr. Bush. "Their goal is to turn Iraq into a failed state, like Afghanistan was under the Taleban. If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for terrorist attacks. They would seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory of the United States and our coalition."

Speaking at a Navy air base in California as part of events marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in the Pacific, President Bush likened the sacrifices of that conflict to the challenges facing U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Nearly 2,000 Americans have been killed in Iraq. Public opinion polls show less than 40-percent of Americans approve of the way the president is handling the war.

Anti-war protests have grown during the past month with much of the focus on a vigil near the president's Texas ranch that was begun by the mother of a serviceman killed in Iraq.

President Bush says he sympathizes with those who have lost loved ones in this war but rejects calls for an immediate troop withdrawal saying that would threaten U.S. security by emboldening terrorists.

"In this war, some of our best citizens have made the ultimate sacrifice," said Mr. Bush. "We mourn the loss of every life. We pray for their loved ones, and we will honor their sacrifice by completing the mission and laying the foundation for peace."

President Bush returns to the White House Wednesday, cutting short his five-week vacation to better oversee federal efforts to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina.