President Bush says Iraq needs a long-term security agreement with the United States to ensure the success of its democracy. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, after talks Saturday with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Mr. Bush also said more NATO troops are needed in Afghanistan.
Speaking to reporters at his ranch in Texas, Mr. Bush said he understands why Iraqi leaders have invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Baghdad. But Mr. Bush said that during Sunday's visit, he hopes Iraqi officials will send President Ahmadinejad a clear message. "The message needs to be: 'Quit sending in sophisticated equipment that's killing our citizens.' And the message will be: 'We are negotiating a long-term security agreement with the Untied States precisely because we want enough breathing space for our democracy to develop," he said.
In January, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Washington has no interest in setting up permanent military bases in Iraq. But the Bush administration has been working on a Status of Forces Agreement that will govern the military relationship with Iraq for some time.
President Bush said another message to the Iranian leader is that the international community is serious about forcing Tehran to stop enriching uranium.
Action at the United Nations on another round of sanctions against Iran is expected this coming week. Iran says it is enriching uranium to generate electricity, not to build nuclear weapons.
President Bush spoke to reporters following talks with Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen. The two men discussed climate change, the crises in Darfur and Kenya, as well as next month's NATO summit in Romania.
The Danish leader said he feels confident that NATO leaders at the summit will agree to boost the number of troops they are contributing to the fight in Afghanistan. "We have to make sure that our mission in Afghanistan will be a success. A lot is at stake for the Afghan people, for international security, and for NATO. Therefore, we need more troops in Afghanistan," he said.
While all 26 NATO members have troops in Afghanistan, some have limited their deployments to safer areas where combat with Taliban fighters is less likely.
President Bush said he understands the political constraints on some NATO members, but he wants more troops from more member states on the frontlines. "Remember last year about this time it was 'The Taliban was going on the offensive,' 'The Taliban was going to be doing this,' 'The Taliban was going to be doing that.' Well, the Taliban had a bad year when it came to military operations. Are they still dangerous? Yeah, they're dangerous," he said.
Mr. Bush said the Taliban is still recruiting suicide bombers but is not overwhelming the government. He said NATO has the capacity to fight the Taliban but needs more troops to finish the job.