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President Bush Says Situation In Iraq Has Changed Substantially

U.S. President George Bush and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met in New York with leaders of countries contributing to the multi-national force in Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush thanked those who have contributed to improving security in Iraq, saying many members of the multi-national force have returned to their countries after successfully completing their mission.

He said many people have helped Iraq emerge as a hopeful example for nations around the world. Mr. Bush praised the leadership of President Talabani.

"Mr. President, we've still got work to do - but there is no doubt that the situation in Iraq has changed substantially," said President Bush. "There's no doubt that mothers are able to send their child to school without fear of carnage. Oh, there are still killers amongst your - in your midst, but your government has been steadfast in bringing people to justice who are trying to undermine your democracy."

Earlier this month, President Bush announced that some 8,000 U.S. troops will leave Iraq by next February including a Marine battalion from Anbar province, an Army combat brigade and more than 3,000 aviation personnel, construction engineers, and military police.

President Talabani spoke on behalf of the Iraqi people in expressing his deepest condolences for soldiers and civilians who have lost their lives while standing up for what he said are shared values of freedom and democracy.

"Thank you, Mr. President, for your brave leadership and your decision to liberate Iraq from worst kind of dictatorship," said President Talabani. "And thanks for all friends and their countries and governments who participated from the beginning to liberate our country and to bring a new Iraq, a democratic, federated, united, independent Iraq, which will help to promote democracy in the Middle East and help peace and security in the Middle East."

President Bush says security improvements in Iraq are a result of his decision last year to send reinforcements. All five of the Army combat brigades, the Marine Expeditionary Unit and the two Marine battalions that made up that surge have returned home. With the withdrawal of the additional 8,000 troops by February 2009, there will be slightly more American forces in Iraq than before the surge began.