U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday the Bush administration will not be shaken by armed resistance to coalition forces in Iraq. Mr. Powell says the United States will remain in Iraq until a democratic government is in place.

Mr. Powell, who was chairman of the U.S. military joint chiefs of staff during the Gulf War in 1991, says the security situation in Iraq is "difficult."

But he says he's confident U.S. commanders there will "get on top of it" and that U.S. intelligence will penetrate the ranks of Saddam Hussein loyalists he said are behind the surge in attacks on coalition forces.

At an impromptu news conference after meeting Mexican Foreign Minister Ernesto Derbez, Mr. Powell dismissed a questioner's suggestion that large numbers of Iraqis are losing faith in the U.S.-led coalition and its program.

"There will be ups and downs in attitudes and feelings. But our position is clear: We will remain long enough to make sure that the Iraqi people have the opportunity to put in place a government that is democratic, that will live in peace with its neighbors, that will use its oil revenues to benefit its people and not to threaten its neighbors," he said. "And when that day arrives, when Iraqis are prepared to resume full control, you can be sure that we will end the role of the Coalition Provisional Authority and return to normal relations with the new Iraqi state."

Mr. Powell, speaking hours after a truck bomb killed at least 18 Italian security personnel in southern Iraq, said it is a time for "perseverance and patience" and said President Bush is as determined as he was at the beginning of the process to insure that the Iraqi people have a state that they "can be proud of."

The secretary of state had joined earlier in the day in urgent White House consultations with the U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, on ways to accelerate the process of returning power to Iraqis.

Though there have been published reports the Bush administration is frustrated with the appointed Iraqi Governing Council and considering an alternative, Mr. Powell said the U.S. focus continues to be on helping the council do its work.

"We are doing everything we can to get the governing council equipped with what they need in the way of staff, what they need in the way of procedures in order to do the job that they want to do, and we want them to do," he said. "This is a difficult work that we are at. To take 24 individuals, put them together, and give them this kind of responsibility requires patience, as they develop patterns of work and patterns of operation, as they staff themselves for these important responsibilities. And so we are committed to the governing council and we intend to help them in every way that we can."

Mr. Powell said he would not discuss specific U.S. ideas for accelerating the political process in Iraq until Mr. Bremer has had a chance to discuss them with the council.