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Bush Praises Iraqi Unity Government


President Bush says the formation in Iraq of a unity government marks a new day for the Iraqi people, and a devastating defeat for the terrorists and al-Qaida.

The president made a rare, Sunday morning public appearance in the White House to praise the latest developments in Iraq.

"The formation of a unity government in Iraq is a new day for the millions of Iraqis who want to live in freedom," he said. "And, the formation of the unity government in Iraq begins a new chapter in our relationship with Iraq."

Mr. Bush said he passed on his congratulations personally in telephone calls to Iraq's top leaders. He said he told them that the United States stands with them.

"I assured them that the United States will continue to assist the Iraqis in the formation of a free country, because I fully understand that a free Iraq will be an important ally in the war on terror, will serve as a devastating defeat for the terrorists and al-Qaida and will serve as an example for others in the region who desire to be free," he said.

Iraq's first constitutional government since the fall of Saddam Hussein was sworn into office on Saturday, even though a few key posts remain unfilled.

Speaking on the Fox News Sunday television program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cited progress, but acknowledged the difficulty of bringing Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds together.

"Yes, there is a lot of politics going on here," she said. "People are dramatizing the fact that they did not get certain posts that they hoped to get. But we really need to give this government a chance, and we need to recognize, with the very difficult things that they are trying to do, they are making extraordinary progress politically."

Rice said U.S. diplomats in Iraq have told her that 90 percent of the Iraqi parliament supports the new government. She indicated that may be due in large part to the focus and resolve shown by the new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

"This is a strong leader," she said. "I have met him. I looked into his eyes. This is somebody who is determined to do what is right for the Iraqi people."

The secretary of state said sectarian violence is a major problem facing the new Iraqi government. She stressed the prime minister has vowed to make security his top priority, and has sworn to defeat terrorism and tyranny.