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Bush Says Terrorists Trying to Destablize Iraq

President Bush says terrorists are trying to destabilize the Iraqi government and that he wants to know what America can do to help stop them. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports that will be the focus of the president's meeting this week with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

President Bush says terrorists are fueling sectarian violence in Iraq, in hopes of bringing down the unity government there. But he rejects suggestions that the country is collapsing into civil war.

"No question. It is dangerous there and violent. And, the Maliki government is going to have to deal with that violence," the president said. "And, we want to help them do so. It is in our interest that we succeed."

At a news conference in Estonia, ahead of a summit of the NATO alliance in neighboring Latvia, Mr. Bush said he is looking forward to this week's talks with Prime Minister Maliki. The president says the meetings in Jordan are a chance for both men to discuss the way forward.

"What do we need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence? I will assure him that we will continue to pursue al-Qaeda to make sure that they are unable to establish a safe haven in Iraq," he said.

Mr. Bush says the success of the Iraqi government is an important part of defeating what he calls "radicals and totalitarians" opposed to democracy in the Middle East.

President Bush says, when those forces see democracy emerging, they use to violence to try and stop it. He says that, in Lebanon, extremists encouraged by Syria and Iran are trying to bring down the democratically-elected government in Beirut.

Asked if he might consider direct talks with Syria and Iran over the future of Iraq, Mr. Bush said Iraq is pursuing its own foreign policy and hopes those talks with its neighbors yield results.

"The Iraqi government is a sovereign government that is capable of handling its own foreign policies and is in the process of doing so," he said. " And, they have made it abundantly clear, and I agree with them, that the Iranians and the Syrians should help, not destabilize, this young democracy."

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was in Tehran, Monday, asking Iran to cooperate in stabilizing Iraq. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his government would stand with Iraq and help strengthen security there.