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Bush Says He Made Surprise Trip to Iraq to Show Support for US Troops

President Bush says his surprise trip to Iraq had been in the works for about six weeks. Only a very few close aides knew about the trip beforehand.

Speaking to reporters on his return from Baghdad, President Bush says he wanted U.S. troops in Iraq to know that their commander-in-chief, and their country, support them.

So about six weeks ago, he asked a small number of aides to look into how he might visit troops in Iraq during the Thanksgiving holiday. At the White House, the secret was confined to the vice president, Chief of Staff Andy Card, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

The president says he told Mrs. Bush during October's trip to Asia that he was planning to visit Baghdad but would only go if he could do it safely.

He did not tell his daughters about the trip until Wednesday evening, shortly before he secretly left their Texas ranch. His parents arrived for Thanksgiving dinner without knowing their son was on his way to Baghdad.

During his two-and-a-half hour visit, President Bush says, he told members of the Iraqi Governing Council that it is up to them to seize the moment and form a government that recognizes and protects the rights of all Iraqis.

He says he assured them the United States will stay the course in Iraq, and get the job done by helping restore security and establish a democratic government.