President Bush, after addressing the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, held bilateral talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Both expressed optimism about Iraq's future despite grim intelligence assessments and election-year criticism of Bush administration policy.
There has been criticism of Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq from not only Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry but also some senators within the president's own Republican party.
But in a photo session with the Iraqi Prime Minister at his New York hotel, Mr. Bush insisted that Iraq is better off because of the ouster of Saddam Hussein, and that the United States stands with the interim government against an insurgency he depicted as part of broader terrorist challenge.
"We're standing with the good people of Iraq because it's in our nation's interests to do so," he said. "We're standing with the people of this good country because we understand that, as the prime minister has said, that we must defeat them there. Otherwise we'll face them here at home. And will prevail, we will succeed."
Mr. Allawi for his part cast the insurgency as not only an Iraqi war, but a "war for the civilized world" in which terrorists hope first to undermine Iraq, then the region, and then strike at various western capitals.
He also maintained that broad progress is being made in turning back the insurgency despite media coverage he said is giving the opposite impression.
"We are winning. We are making progress in Iraq. We are defeating terrorists," he said. "Najaf, Samarra, Mosul, Basra are all live examples that a lot of progress has been made. Unfortunately, that media have not been covering these significant gains in Iraq. And this is all because of the determination of the Iraqi people, the light that they are seeing at the end. Democracy will prevail, the rule of law will prevail, the issues and culture of human rights will prevail."
Under questioning Mr. Bush lobbed direct criticism at Senator Kerry, suggesting he would have kept Saddam Hussein in power, and saying he has taken so many varying positions on Iraq that his statements on the subject "are hardly credible at all."
Criticism of White House Iraq policy continued Tuesday meanwhile from the Kerry camp. Kerry national security adviser Rand Beers, responding to Mr. Bush's U.N. General Assembly speech, said the president continues to mislead the American people "rather than face the reality of his failed policies."
Mr. Beers said the president had "dangerously diverted" U.S. resources and attention to Iraq, over-extending the U.S. military while terrorist leader Osama bin Laden remains at large.