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Bush says Iraqi Democracy Possible, Necessary - 2004-04-21

President Bush says democracy is both necessary and possible in Iraq. Mr. Bush also spoke out Wednesday about terrorism and Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The president concedes these are rough times in Iraq. He says the stakes are high, but stresses America's commitment is strong. "And we are not going to cut and run if I am in the Oval Office," he said.

In a speech to a convention of newspaper editors, Mr. Bush defended his handling of Iraq and the war on terrorism.

During a question and answer session, he was asked if the goal in Iraq should be stability, rather than a functioning democracy. The president said a democratic government is necessary.

"It's what will change the world, help change the world. You believe people can self-govern or not, believe democracy is possible in that part of the world or not. I think it is," he said.

Mr. Bush was also queried about a new Associated Press poll that indicates an overwhelming majority of Americans believe another terrorist attack on their country is somewhat likely before the presidential election in November. The president indicated he was not surprised by the poll results, given the recent terrorist attack in Madrid.

"And so I can see why people feel that way and so we just have to stay on the offensive is what we have got to do," he said.

The president said America is a big country and a hard country to defend. He said intelligence on the terrorist threat is good, but not perfect. He was then asked if he is satisfied with the level of cooperation abroad.

"Cooperation is good but it really is an issue that you constantly have to work on to remind people of the stakes," he said.

Mr. Bush went on to urge the international community to join the United States in putting pressure on Iran, citing concerns about its nuclear intentions. He said the message needs to get through that the development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable.

"It would be intolerable to peace and stability in the Middle East if they get a nuclear weapon, particularly since their stated objective is the destruction of Israel," he said.

Iran has denied its nuclear program has anything to do with weapons, and is designed for peaceful, civilian purposes. But the Bush administration rejects that argument, saying a major oil producing nation does not need nuclear power plants.