Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he appreciates the sacrifice U.S. troops are making in his country. The prime minister and President Bush had lunch with American soldiers at a base outside the capital.

Prime Minister Maliki says the Iraqi people salute American troops for all they have done to free the country from the regime of Saddam Hussein. 

"I appreciate that your colleagues who offered their lives on the land of Iraq, and I tell you that Iraqis will never forget these sacrifices. Because they have really participated in ridding Iraq of dictatorship, one of the ugliest regimes that the region has known," he said.

The prime minister told troops at an Army base in the state of Virginia that he sympathizes with the sacrifice and suffering of families who have lost loved ones in Iraq.

The prime minister, who lost many of his own family members during the regime of Saddam Hussein, says he feels the bitterness of loss, but believes that U.S. and Iraqi forces fighting together will turn back terrorist aggression.

"When blood mixes together in the field aiming to achieve one goal, this blood will help in establishing long-lasting relationship between us. Our relationship will stay forever," he said.

The president and prime minister carried their own trays through the food line at Ft. Belvoir, sitting on benches with some of the 150 soldiers present, most of whom were wearing camouflage uniforms.

President Bush says he and the prime minister have hard work to do together to ensure that freedom succeeds in Iraq and that terrorists are brought to justice.

"And that is why we have sent some of our finest citizens to help you, Mr. Prime Minister. We want you to succeed. It is in our nation's interest that you succeed. And I am confident that we will succeed," he said.

No matter how tough it gets, President Bush says U.S. troops will complete this mission because they owe it to those who served before them and to those who lost their lives.

President Bush welcomed Prime Minister Maliki to Washington as part of an effort to show Americans that the U.S. mission in Iraq is making progress.

The latest public-opinion poll by the newspaper USA Today shows 56 percent of Americans now believe it was a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq. The poll says 62 percent disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation and 38 percent approve.