President Bush is set to begin another series of speeches to counter opposition to the war in Iraq.

Mr. Bush's first address Thursday will be to a U.S. war veterans convention in the western state of Utah.

On Wednesday, the president said the speeches are not political but are intended to make clear his belief that if the U.S. withdraws prematurely from Iraq, the United States will be in even greater danger.

This is the third time in less than a year Mr. Bush has campaigned to defend his policies in Iraq. His approval ratings are now in the 30 percent range.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in his speeches, President Bush will acknowledge these are "unsettling" times, and that he will discuss the Iraq war in a broader context.

In Iraq Wednesday, nearly 60 people were killed in several incidents, including a bombing at a busy market and a blast outside an army recruiting center. Dozens of people were wounded.

The attacks occurred despite an intensified security clampdown in Baghdad by U.S. and Iraqi forces.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, said Iraqi forces may be ready within a year to 18 months to take over main security responsibilities.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.