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Bush: Violence Does Not Threaten Iraq Handover Plans - 2004-06-26


President Bush says violence in Iraq does not threaten plans to handover power there on Wednesday. In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush told Americans the nation is safer from terrorist attack because of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

As the transfer of sovereignty approaches, President Bush says the enemies of freedom in Iraq are growing ever more desperate.

He called last week's beheading of South Korean hostage Kim Sun-il a cold-blooded act of barbaric violence designed to destabilize Iraq's new government, intimidate the Iraqi people and shake the will of the U.S.-led coalition. President Bush says that will not happen.

"Iraq's leaders, in a daily display of courage, refuse to be deterred from their dream of democracy, stability and prosperity for the Iraqi people," he said.

In a radio message recorded before Mr. Bush left on a five-day trip to Europe, the president told Americans that he will ask NATO members to help train a new Iraqi army.

"NATO has the capability to help the Iraqi people defeat the terrorist threat facing their country," said President Bush. "As Iraq moves toward the transfer of sovereignty next week, NATO, the European Union and the United States are united in our determination to help the people of that nation."

The president meets with NATO leaders in Turkey just days before the handover of power in Baghdad and is trying to rally support for the new transitional government.

Mr. Bush faced some resistance at the G8 summit earlier this month, with French President Jacques Chirac questioning how Iraqis would respond to a greater NATO role in the country. France and Germany have refused to send troops to Iraq, where soldiers from 15 NATO members are already serving in the U.S.-led coalition.

Public opinion polls in the past week showed, for the first time, that a majority of Americans now believe the war in Iraq was not worth. The president's radio address sought to allay some of those concerns, insisting that the war has made the nation safer from terrorist attack.

"We believe the advance of freedom makes the world safer for all nations," he said. "And we believe that when free nations work together, freedom will always prevail."

The latest poll numbers do have some good news for the president on the economy, with approval of his handling of the economy up seven points since March and his strongest showing since January.

Democrats are trying to keep voters focused on record job losses during the president's time in office. In the Democratic radio address, Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama said new jobs being created in his state pay less than the jobs lost, with few offering real benefits.

"Now, it wouldn't be fair or accurate to blame all of this on the Bush administration," said Barack Obama. "It is fair, however, to say that they haven't done much to help."

Mr. Obama says the president's record tax cuts have been of little help for the middle class and are adding to the federal debt. He criticized Mr. Bush for cutting taxes on corporations that export jobs overseas and for what he says is the president's failure to enforce trade agreements against countries engaging in unfair practices.