By John D. Banusiewicz
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2006 – While it's up to the Iraqi government to make the tough decisions as the country continues its progress, the Iraqi people can continue to count on the United States for help, President Bush said in New York yesterday. Bush and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani spoke with reporters after a bilateral meeting. While praising the Iraqi people for their courage, Bush acknowledged the road ahead is difficult. "These are tough times," he said. "There's still violence in your midst because extremists want to stop the advance of a free society."
Bush said he and Talabani discussed the way ahead in Iraq. "We've spent time strategizing ... on how we can continue to help the Iraqi government provide security for her people," he said. "It's not only security that comes from troops, but (also) security that comes from economic vitality."
Both leaders were in New York in conjunction with a session of the United Nations General Assembly. Bush noted that the previous day had seen "a very good meeting" concerning the International Compact for Iraq, a U.N.-supported initiative begun earlier this summer at the request of Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to provide a framework for international assistance.
"The international community came and listened very carefully to the Iraqi government's proposals and pledged support for this new democracy," Bush said. "And that ought to hearten the Iraqi people."
Bush said he and Talabani discussed the need for the Iraqi people to be confident in their government's ability to move forward. "I made it very clear to the president that it's important for the government of Iraq to continue to make very difficult decisions so that the people of Iraq see progress, to see different political parties capable of working together for the good of the country and for the good of the people."
Noting that earlier in the day he had addressed part of his General Assembly speech to the Iraqi people, Bush emphasized his reasons for doing so. "I wanted them to know that we're thinking about them during this difficult period of time," he said. "I want them to know we appreciate their courage. And I want them to know that the United States of America stands with them so long as the government continues to make the tough choices necessary for peace to prevail."
Talabani expressed gratitude to U.S. servicemembers. "We very much appreciate the sacrifice of the brave American Army," he said, "those who gave their lives to liberate our country from the worst kind of dictatorship, which left behind mass graves with hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis in it."
The Iraqi people "will never forget those friends who helped us in the difficult days of Iraq," he said. In return, he added, Iraq will always be a friend and partner of the United States in fighting against tyranny, dictatorship and terrorism.
Talabani said he updated Bush on progress in Iraq's national reconciliation program. "I talked about (how) we are trying to do our best to remove all obstacles in the way of national reconciliation," he said. Toward that end, he said, the Iraqi government is considering amendments to the country's constitution and is reviewing policies toward the Baathist political party that was toppled from power along with Saddam Hussein in 2003.
"We have also our road map in Iraq, which was decided by a political council of national security, for solving other problems of the Iraqi people," Talabani said.
Bush praised the Iraqi president. "I appreciate your long-standing courage and support for freedom and liberty," he said. "History will judge you kindly, Mr. President, when they look back and realize that under your leadership a new democracy began to flourish in the heart of the Middle East called Iraq."