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Bush Says New Iraqi Army Will Help Stabilize Country - 2003-10-04


President Bush says a new Iraqi army will help stabilize the country and lead toward a return to self-rule. The president's remarks come as violence flared in Baghdad between U.S. troops and former Iraqi soldiers, in which two Iraqis were killed.

President Bush says the 750 soldiers in the first battalion of a new U.S.-trained Iraqi army join more than 80,000 Iraqis already defending the country as police, border guards, and a civil defense corps.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush said new Iraqi security forces will serve the interests of the Iraqi people, not the former president, Saddam Hussein.

"For three decades, the police in Iraq were the feared enforcers of a dictatorship. Now Iraq's new police are enforcing the just laws of an emerging democracy. Already, the Iraqi police are assuming greater responsibility, and greater risks," the president said.

In the past week, Mr. Bush says, Iraqi officers helped U.S. troops arrest more than 50 suspected criminals and terrorists. His $20 billion request for rebuilding the country includes $5 billion to help train a new army and public safety and emergency personnel, as well as to establish a fair and effective judicial system.

"The transition to self-government is a complicated process, because it takes time to build trust and hope, after decades of oppression and fear," he said. "Yet we are making steady progress, and we will keep our promise to fully return Iraq's government to Iraq's people, as soon as possible."

In the Democratic response to the president's radio address, Missouri Governor Bob Holden questioned how much American taxpayers are being asked to spend to rebuild Iraq, while some domestics needs, he says, are going unmet.

"Democrats believe the responsibility for rebuilding Iraq should be shared by the international community, not just American taxpayers. Otherwise, this effort will force major cutbacks in important American priorities," he said.

The Bush administration is trying to spread the cost of rebuilding Iraq with a new U.N. resolution to encourage more countries to contribute money and troops. France, Germany, and Russia say the draft resolution does not go far enough in laying out a timetable for a return to self-rule.

In Baghdad Saturday, violence broke out between U.S. troops and a crowd of former Iraqi soldiers waiting for back pay.

In the southern city of Basra, coalition forces killed an Iraqi during similar demonstrations over back-pay for the former army.

Late Friday, U.S. military officials say one American soldier was killed and another wounded by a rocket propelled grenade and small arms fire.