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Bush Says Leaving Iraq Would Embolden Iran


President Bush says pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq before the government there can take over its own security would embolden neighboring Iran. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Iran's foreign minister says his country would step in to ensure regional stability, once foreign forces leave Iraq.

In trying to rebuild public support for an unpopular war, President Bush is warning about what he says could be regional chaos if the United States leaves Iraq before the government there can protect itself.

Chief among his concerns is Iraq's neighbor Iran, who the president believes is secretly developing a nuclear weapons program, which Iran denies.

"There would be nothing worse for world peace, if the Iranians believe that the United States didn't have the will and commitment to help young democracies survive, that if we left before the job was done, there would be chaos," he said. "Chaos would embolden not only the extremists and radicals who would like to do us harm, but it would also embolden Iran. What you don't want is to have a nuclear arms race taking place in the Middle East."

The president told political supporters in the eastern state of Pennsylvania that Iran not only threatens its neighbors, but the United States as well.

Iran says its nuclear program is only meant to generate electricity. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Motaki told reporters at the United Nations Wednesday that his country will join other regional powers in ensuring stability, once coalition forces withdraw from Iraq.

"If the foreign forces leave Iraq - which we do believe they have to leave - the regional countries, of course including Iran, are in a position to protect stability in the region," he said. "This is our major policy."

President Bush has so far avoided legislative demands to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Opposition Democrats who have a slim majority in Congress have failed to come up with the votes necessary to force his hand.

But Mr. Bush does face continuing public opposition to the war. An ABC News/Washington Post survey this week showed 68 percent of Americans disapprove of how he is handling the conflict.

The president says he understands how people feel.

"People just are anxious about seeing death on their TV screens. I also understand that the enemy understands that, and so the spectacular bombings of innocent people are meant to achieve a couple of objectives," he added.

Mr. Bush says those objectives include shaking the resolve of Iraqi civilians and Americans.