President Bush says a new transitional government in Iraq will help lead toward democracy throughout the Middle East. Mr. Bush says American troops will continue to provide security for Iraq's new leaders.

President Bush says U.S. troops will not allow violence to derail Iraq's new transitional leadership as it prepares to change at the end of this month.

?At every stage of this process, before and after the transition to Iraqi sovereignty, the enemy is likely to be active and brutal,? Mr. Bush said. ?They know the stakes as well as we do. But our coalition is prepared. Our will is strong. And neither Iraq's new leadership nor the United States will be intimidated by thugs and assassins.?

President Bush says free elections in Iraq are the terrorists' biggest fear. And free elections, he says, are what they are going to get with the interim authority expected to hold that vote next January.

Mr. Bush told graduating members of the U.S. Air Force Academy that fighting terrorism in Iraq is the challenge of our time.

?The stakes of this struggle are high. The security and peace of our country are at stake. And success in this struggle is our only option,? he said.

The president again said the conflict in the Middle East is a clash of political visions not religious beliefs. He vowed to support those pushing for greater political rights and said bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq will undercut the economic stagnation and despair that fuels extremist ideologies, including al-Qaida terrorism.

?They are looking to the world's free nations to support them in their struggle against a violent minority who want to impose a future of darkness across the Middle East,? Mr. Bush said. ?We will not abandon them to the designs of evil men. We will stand with the people of that region as they seek their future in freedom.?

U.S. officials are pushing for a new U.N. resolution on Iraq with changes to their original proposal which more clearly outline the sovereign powers of the transitional government, especially regarding security.

The new draft reportedly gives Iraqi authorities control over police and other security forces while limiting the stay of the more than 130,000 members of the U.S.-led multinational force.