By Jim Garamone
Dec. 3, 2006 – His recent trip to the Middle East reaffirmed his conviction to help the unity government in Baghdad find a political solution to the situation in Iraq, President Bush said here yesterday. During his weekly radio address, Bush said the success of the unity government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is crucial to the success of democracy in the region. He said he is impressed with the Iraqi leader's desire to make the difficult choices that will put his country on a better path.
Bush said he told Maliki that the United States "is ready to make changes to better support the unity government of Iraq."
The United States will be guided by several key principles, Bush said. "The success of Prime Minister Maliki's government is critical to success in Iraq," he said. "His unity government was chosen through free elections in which nearly 12 million Iraqis cast their ballots in support of democracy. Our goal in Iraq is to strengthen his democratic government and help Iraq's leaders build a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself -- and is an ally in the war on terror."
The Iraqi government's success hinges on the success of the Iraqi security forces, Bush noted. "The training of Iraqi security forces has been steady, yet we both agreed that we need to do more, and we need to do it faster," he said. "The prime minister wants to show the people who elected him that he's willing to make the hard decisions necessary to provide security.
"To do that, he needs larger and more capable Iraqi forces under his control, and he needs them quickly," Bush continued. "By helping Iraq's elected leaders get the Iraqi forces they need, we will help Iraq's democratic government become more effective in fighting the terrorists and other violent extremists, and in providing security and stability, particularly in Baghdad."
Iraq must build and sustain strong institutions that can survive the test of time and hardship, Bush said. "Our goal in Iraq is to help Prime Minister Maliki build a country that is united, where the rule of law prevails and the rights of minorities are respected," the president said. "The prime minister made clear that splitting his country into parts is not what the Iraqi people want, and that any partition of Iraq would lead to an increase in sectarian violence."
The Iraqi security forces can help bring stability, but in the long run security requires reconciliation, and Maliki is committed to reconciliation among all sects and ethnic groups in Iraq, Bush said.
Bush said he and Maliki discussed the U.S. review of strategy in Iraq. "As part of this review, I've asked our military leaders in the Pentagon and those on the ground in Iraq to provide their recommendations on the best way forward," the president said.
The president said he'll consider the results of those reviews along with the conclusions of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. That group, led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, will release its conclusions this week. "I want to hear all advice before I make any decisions about adjustments to our strategy in Iraq," Bush said.
The president said he understands that many are concerned and unsettled by the continuing violence in Iraq. "The work ahead will not be easy, yet by helping Prime Minister Maliki strengthen Iraq's democratic institutions and promote national reconciliation, our military leaders and diplomats can help put Iraq on a solid path to liberty and democracy," Bush said. "The decisions we make in Iraq will be felt across the broader Middle East."
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