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Bush: Death of Terrorist Leader Zarqawi Blow to al-Qaida

President Bush is calling the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi a blow to al-Qaida in Iraq. The terror leader was killed in an air strike near Baquba on Wednesday.

The president says the death of Zarqawi is a severe blow to al-Qaida, and a victory in the war on terror.

"Zarqawi was operational commander of the terrorist movement in Iraq," said Mr. Bush. "He led a campaign of car bombings, assassinations and suicide attacks that has taken the lives of many American forces and thousands of innocent Iraqis."

Mr. Bush says Zarqawi's goal was to defeat America and its coalition partners and turn Iraq into an al-Qaida haven. He said the terrorist leader wanted to divide Iraqis and incite civil war.

"Now, Zarqawi has met his end, and this violent man will never murder again," he said.

During an early morning appearance at the White House, the president made clear that the death of Zarqawi does not mean the violence in Iraq will automatically come to an end. But he said the new Iraqi government has clearly turned the tide in its efforts to restore a sense of security in the country. And he emphasized that, now, there is hope.

"We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him," reminded President Bush. "We can expect the sectarian violence to continue. Yet, the ideology of terror has lost one of its most visible and aggressive leaders."

President Bush praised the work of coalition and Iraqi forces who tracked down Zarqawi. He said Americans and Iraqis have reason to be proud.

"Coalition and Iraqi forces persevered through years of near misses and false leads. They never gave up. Last night, their persistence and determination were rewarded. On behalf of all Americans, I congratulate our troops on this remarkable achievement," Mr. Bush said.

The president also passed along congratulations to the new Iraqi government in a telephone call to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He said, during the call, he hailed the work of Iraqi troops, and the naming of the final members of Mr. Maliki's cabinet.

"I assured Prime Minister Maliki that he will have the full support of the United States of America," he continued.

Mr. Bush said he will meet on Monday at his Camp David retreat with members of his national security team to discuss the way forward in Iraq. On Tuesday, Iraq's new ambassador will join the discussions in person, with Prime Minister Maliki and other Iraqi officials taking part via teleconference from Baghdad.