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Coalition Forces Beginning to Help Iraq Rebuild, Says Bush - 2003-04-15

With fighting in Iraq subsiding, President Bush says coalition forces are beginning to re-establish order and help the country draft an interim authority to lead toward new elections. President Bush says military victory in Iraq is certain, but not yet complete.

"The centralized power of the dictator has ended," he said. "Yet in parts of Iraq, desperate and dangerous elements remain. Forces of our coalition will engage these enemies until they surrender or until they are destroyed."

The president says coalition forces are beginning what he calls the "difficult work of helping Iraqis build a free and stable country." He says that includes restoring electricity and basic services, destroying weapons of mass destruction and delivering food, water and medicine.

Mr. Bush says it will take time and effort to establish a "just and representative" government in Iraq that respects human rights and the rule of law. Once that's done, the president says he believes Iraq will be an example of "reform and progress" for all the Middle East.

Mr. Bush says the United States is still threatened by what he calls "determined and resourceful enemies" holding weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration says one of those countries is Syria where U.S. officials say some senior Iraqi leaders have already found asylum.

Syria says it has no illegal weapons and is not helping members of the Saddam regime.

Without mentioning Syria by name, President Bush says he is sending a clear message to all who would threaten the United States and its allies.

"The United States of America and our coalition will defend ourselves. When we make a pledge, we mean it. We keep our word. And what we begin, we will finish," he said.

In Iraq, Mr. Bush says the fall of Saddam Hussein is an opportunity for the Iraqi people to take charge of their future.

"One month ago, that country was a prison to its people, a haven for terrorists, an arsenal of weapons that endangered the world," said Mr. Bush. "Today the world is safer. The terrorists have lost an ally. The Iraqi people are regaining control of their destiny. These are good days in the history of freedom."

Former opposition leaders from inside and outside Iraq met with U.S. officials Tuesday to discuss the future, saying a post-war government must be democratic and must respect the country's diversity.