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Bush Vows to Continue Iraq Mission, Despite Daily Attacks - 2003-11-01

Six months after he declared an end to major combat in Iraq, President Bush says U.S. troops will continue their mission there, despite daily attacks. The president used his weekly radio address to try to focus on the positives in Iraq.

This was a rough week for security in Iraq, with bombings at the International Red Cross and more attacks on local police stations and U.S. forces.

In his weekly radio address, President Bush took stock of that violence, saying some of the attackers are Saddam loyalists seeking to regain power. Others, he says, are foreign terrorists spreading chaos to prevent the emergence of democracy in the Middle East.

While those groups may have different long-term goals, Mr. Bush says, they share the same near-term strategy, to intimidate Iraqis who want to build a new government, and to chase away America and its allies.

The president says that is not going to happen.

"The United States will complete our work in Iraq," said President Bush. "Leaving Iraq prematurely would only embolden the terrorists and increase the danger to America. We are determined to stay, to fight and to win."

Mr. Bush says those opposing the U.S. occupation will fail, because coalition forces are taking the fight to the enemy. He gave as an example a campaign by the Army's 4th Infantry Division, called Operation Ivy Focus, that has captured more than 100 former regime members in a little over a month.

"In other operations, those soldiers have also seized hundreds of weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition and explosives and hundreds of thousands of dollars suspected of being used to finance terror operations," he said.

The president says U.S. forces are training more Iraqis to provide their own security. More than 90,000 Iraqis now serve as police officers, border guards and civil defense staff, supplying better intelligence, so U.S. troops can more precisely target what he calls the enemies of freedom.

Mr. Bush says U.S. officials also are working on a plan to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people by encouraging the interim Governing Council to draft a new constitution that will lead to free elections.

The president has been critical of media reports, which he says focus too much on what is going wrong in Iraq. He says U.S. troops are making progress in seizing weapons, and as life in Iraq improves, more civilians will join the effort to rebuild their country.

"As security improves, life will increasingly return to normal in Iraq, and more and more Iraqis will step forward to play a direct role in the rebirth of their country," he said. "And as the political process moves forward, and more and more Iraqis come to feel they have a stake in their country's future, they will help to secure a better life for themselves and their children."

The president says terrorists in Iraq hope to weaken the will of coalition forces, but he says that determination cannot be shaken. He says U.S. forces will honor the sacrifice of comrades who have been killed in Iraq by ensuring that the cause for which they fought is completed. That, he says, will make America safer by transforming Iraq from an exporter of violence to a center for peace.