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Bush Praises New Iraqi Interim Government - 2004-06-01

President Bush has called the new interim prime minister and president of Iraq to offer congratulations and talk about the future. Earlier, at a White House news conference, Mr. Bush praised the interim Iraqi government, saying it has the talent, commitment and resolve to handle the challenges ahead. VOA's Paula Wolfson has details.

The president says he had no say in the selection of the interim Iraqi government, but emphasizes he likes the results. "I am pleased with the progress, the political progress, being made today," he said.

He calls the new cabinet a good group and says he looks forward to working with interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. "All the new prime minister needs to know is that I look forward to a close relationship with him to do what is best for the Iraqi people. That is our interest," he said.

Mr. Allawi has been critical from time to time of coalition forces and administrators in Iraq, as has the man chosen to be the country's interim president, Ghazi al-Yawar.

During a session with White House reporters, President Bush said he is glad the U.N. envoy who oversaw the selection process, Lakhdar Brahimi, chose candidates who were willing to speak their mind. The president then noted that despite the criticism, there is an acknowledgment in Iraq that the country will need coalition troops for some time, while it builds its own security force.

"I am told by people on the ground there that they feel, the Iraqis feel, comfortable in asking for us to stay," he said.

Mr. Bush went on to say the security situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, as violent men test the collective will of the coalition and the interim government. But he stressed once again that the United States will complete its mission in Iraq.

"We will stand with the Iraqi people in defeating the enemies of freedom and those who oppose democracy in Iraq," he said.

The president told reporters that earlier in the day he called U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to praise Mr. Brahami's work and discuss prospects for a Security Council resolution that would endorse the interim government and pave the way for a multinational force. He said Iraqi officials should come to New York soon to help push the U.N. process along.

Mr. Bush said he plans to continue his own consultations in the coming days with international leaders. He leaves Washington on Thursday for a trip to Europe, which will be followed next week by the G8 summit in the U.S. resort community of Sea Island, Georgia.

Later in the month, the president will meet with NATO leaders in Turkey, but he said he does not expect the alliance to send additional troops to Iraq.