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President Bush: No Permanent US Military Bases in Iraq

President Bush says he does not envision permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, but does want the United States to maintain a troop presence long enough to guarantee that democracy takes hold in the country. VOA's Michael Bowman reports, Mr. Bush's comments on U.S. television come during a heated campaign season in which Democrats are pledging to continue to press for a deadline to begin major troops withdrawals form Iraq.

In discussing Iraq with U.S. military commanders, President Bush says he stresses one central objective: in his words, "success is paramount."

"It means there is enough security and stability for reconciliation to continue to take place and for democracy to take hold," said President Bush.

The President was speaking on the Fox News Sunday television program. Asked whether he is attempting to tie the hands of his successor to a set course in Iraq by negotiating a long-term agreement for U.S. troops in the country, Mr. Bush said no.

"We will be there at the invitation of the Iraq government," said Mr. Bush. "Any president can make the decision of how many troops we need there. I could have increased troops or decreased troops in Korea, and we had a long term security agreement [with Seoul]. And we will not have permanent bases [in Iraq]."

During the past year, opposition Democrats, who control both houses of Congress, have repeatedly tried to force Mr. Bush to accept time-specific goals for pulling combat troops out of Iraq. Under veto threats, those efforts have failed.

Speaking on CNN's Late Edition program, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the United States likely will have to wait for new U.S. leadership if it is to chart a new course in Iraq.

"We must end this war," said Nancy Pelosi. "It is clear it is not going to happen unless we have a new president who is committed to ending the war, to bring stability to the region, to make America safer, and to do so in a way that enables us to regain our rightful place, leadership role in the world."

Democratic presidential contenders have argued that Iraq's fractured political leadership will never make the difficult choices needed to achieve national reconciliation so long as they believe America's military commitment is open-ended.

Also speaking on CNN, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said he agrees that Iraq must be prodded to take the steps necessary to one day fend for itself.

"We do not want to cut and run, but it is time to start thinking about how to bring them [U.S. troops] home," said Colin Powell. "And the safest way to bring them home and achieve some objective in Iraq, is to put the pressure on the Iraqis. At some point after all these years, they have got to be able to provide for their own security."

Nevertheless, Powell argued against setting what he termed "arbitrary dates" for a decision as important as ending America's military mission in Iraq.