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Bush Promises US Will Be 'Steady Friend' to Iraq - 2003-04-28


President Bush has assured Iraqi-Americans that America will stand by their homeland and will help build a peaceful prosperous nation. He spoke in the Detroit, Michigan area - home to one of the largest Arab-American communities in the United States.

It was a victory rally of sorts, even though the president has yet to formally declare the war is over.

Hundreds of Arab-Americans, most of them with ties to Iraq, packed a community arts center to hear Mr. Bush in the town of Dearborn. They cheered when he told them the United States made a promise to rid Iraq of an oppressive regime and that vow was kept.

"America now pledges to help Iraqis build a prosperous and peaceful nation and we will keep our word again," Mr. Bush said.

The president said it will not be easy and it will take time. He said the regime of Saddam Hussein impoverished the country in many ways. Mr. Bush said children went hungry while grand palaces were built, and a nation thirsty for freedom knew only fear.

"It will be a hard journey," he said. "But at every step of the way, Iraq will have a steady friend in the American people."

The president said day by day and hour by hour, life is getting better in Iraq. He said efforts are underway to provide reliable electric power and safe water, reopen schools, and make sure hospitals and clinics have the resources they need.

He once again called on the United Nations to lift sanctions on Iraq, and he reaffirmed America's commitment to see democracy take strong root in Iraqi soil. The president said those who were skeptical about the war were wrong.

"They were mistaken. And we know why," he said. "The desire for freedom is not the property of one culture. It is the universal hope of human beings in every culture."

Before the speech, President Bush met privately with 17 Iraqi-Americans. It was the latest in a series of meetings with Americans of Arab descent, that began before the start of combat in Iraq.