President Bush says Iraq's new government is an important milestone that will make America safer. Iraqi politicians broke a four-month deadlock over power sharing by choosing Shi'ite leader Jawad al-Maliki to be the new prime minister.

President Bush says Iraq's new leadership reflects the nation's diversity and the will of its people who defied threats of violence by going to the polls last December.

The compromise includes another term for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who is a Kurd, and the selection of Sunni Arab Mahmoud al-Mashhadani as speaker of parliament. The Shi'ite Prime Minister-designate, Jawad al-Maliki, now has 30 days to form a new government.

President Bush says he telephoned all three leaders to congratulate them on their courage and encourage them to stand strong for the Iraqi people.

"I reminded them that people had voted, that people had expressed their desire for democracy and unity and now there is a chance for these leaders to stand up and lead," he said.

Mr. Bush says those three leaders have important responsibilities to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, and improve its economy and security. He says the political compromise begins a new chapter in America's relationship with the Iraqi people and they will not face these challenges alone.

It was some much-needed good news from Iraq for President Bush whose record low public approval ratings are tied to falling public support for the war.

A USA Today / Gallup poll this month shows 65 percent of Americans disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq.

Speaking to energy officials in Washington, Mr. Bush said the formation of a new government in Iraq will make America safer, and Iraq's new leaders understand the cost Americans have borne.

"It is important for the American people to know that these three leaders appreciate the sacrifice that our troops have made and that our taxpayers have made to help them realize a dream," noted President Bush.  "And the dream is to live in a unified, free society. A free Iraq is in the interest of the United States of America. A free Iraq will be a part of laying the peace for generations to come. And a free Iraq will be a major defeat for the terrorists who still want to do us harm."

President Bush says Iraq is the central front in the fight against terrorism and it is better to fight enemies abroad rather than face them at home.