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Bush Encouraged by Progress in Iraq

President Bush says Americans should be encouraged by what he says is political and military progress in Iraq. VOA White House correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the president is defending the war ahead of a key report to Congress next month.

President Bush used his weekly radio address to defend an unpopular war, saying a new military offensive in recent days is targeting terrorists who are fleeing Baghdad.

Mr. Bush says American military, civilian, and diplomatic teams are helping Iraqi communities rebuild infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage political reconciliation.

"America will continue to urge Iraq's leaders to meet the benchmarks they have set," he said. "Yet Americans can be encouraged by the progress and reconciliation that are taking place at the local level."

The president says American and Iraqi forces have struck what he calls powerful blows in recent months. He condemned Tuesday's truck bombs near the Syrian border, which killed at least 400 people, saying U.S. troops are going to go after those behind what he calls a horrific attack.

Mr. Bush is trying to rebuild some public support at a time when opinion polls show a majority of Americans believe the war is a mistake. The latest CBS News poll says nearly 70 percent of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling the war.

Opposition Democrats earlier this year failed to impose a timetable for a troop withdrawal from Iraq, largely because enough members of the president's own Republican Party voted to give his plan more time to work.

Many of those Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are looking to the president's report to Congress next month for evidence that the president's decision to send more troops to Iraq is working.

The Democrats used their weekly radio address to focus on the economy. Night-shift waitress Fawn Townsend says Democrats are helping working Americans by raising the minimum wage.

"Millions of Americans now have a little more in their paychecks to help pay for basic necessities like food and clothing. And now more Americans can save to build a better future for themselves and their families," she said.

President Bush continues his August break on his Texas ranch before traveling to Quebec Monday for meetings with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.