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World More Peaceful in Post-War Iraq, Asserts Bush - 2003-04-20

U.S. President George W. Bush says the liberation of Iraq makes the world a more peaceful place. He spoke after attending Easter services at an army base not far from his Texas ranch.

The president emerged from Easter services with two of the seven American prisoners of war recently rescued in Iraq.

He said he offered a prayer for peace, noting developments in Iraq have put the world on the proper path.

"The liberation of Iraq will make the world more peaceful," he said.

Mr. Bush squinted into the April sun as he spoke briefly with reporters at Fort Hood, the largest military installation in the United States.

He was asked if he was worried about recent demonstrations in Iraq calling on U.S. forces to pull out. The president called the protests a sign of freedom.

"Freedom is beautiful. And when people are free, they express their opinions. They could not express their opinions before we came. Now they can.

President Bush said again that he does not know if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is alive or dead. He said the important thing is that the man who ruled Iraq for decades is no longer in power. Mr. Bush then offered some advice to the former Iraqi leader.

"If he is alive, I would suggest he not pop his head up," he said.

The president suggested that, now that the combat phase of what is called Operation Iraqi Freedom is virtually complete, he will be speaking out more about his domestic policy. But he made clear his thoughts remain very much with the nation's servicemen and women. He said his private meeting with the two returned prisoners of war provided encouragement.

"I was, believe this or not, somewhat taken aback, when I was in their presence. These guys were so uplifting, and so positive, and so obviously thrilled to be here," he said.

David Williams and Ronald Young returned to Fort Hood, their home base, less than 12 hours earlier. The two helicopter pilots were forced down in Iraq on March 24. They were rescued, along with five other American prisoners of war, on April 13.