By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
June 1, 2007 – It is crucial for the Iraqi government to meet benchmarks for political and economic progress, President Bush stressed to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in an Oval Office meeting yesterday. "I told the president that I'm fully committed to helping the Iraqi government achieve important objectives," Bush said during a short news conference after the meeting. "We call them benchmarks. A political law necessary to show the Iraqi citizens that there is a unified government willing to work on the interests of all people. The president fully understands the need for the Iraqi government to meet certain benchmarks, and he is dedicated to achieving those benchmarks."
The Iraqi parliament is working on an oil-revenue-sharing law, a de-Baathification law and on a law setting up local elections. "I want to thank you very much for you vision ... and your willingness to take the hard steps necessary to get the job done," Bush told Talabani.
Talabani told Bush that the Iraqi government is "due to finish all of this and send it to parliament to be achieved. At the same time, we are committed to do our best to train our army and armed forces to replace gradually the American forces in taking responsibility of security of our country."
It is critical for the Iraqi government to succeed, Bush said.
"Failure in Iraq would endanger American citizens because failure in Iraq would embolden the enemies of a free Iraq," he said. "Let's just say loud and clear to citizens who still remember the lessons of September the 11th that it's in our interest to help the Iraqis defeat al Qaeda."
Talabani thanked Bush, Congress and the American people for their support of Iraq.
"We are very grateful to the American people, and I present my condolences to the sacrifice which this glorious people," Talabani said. "America, has always presented for liberating peoples all over the history and for Iraqi people and Afghan people and others."
The Iraqi president candidly listed the problems facing his country. "The main enemies of the Iraqi people is the al Qaeda and terrorists cooperating with them," he said.
However, he said, the Iraqi government will negotiate with other less extreme groups to bring them into the political process.
The Iraqi government also is working to improve Iraqis' quality of life, Talabani said. He said the media concentrates on the negative security aspects of the country, but ignore that economic activities are raising wages for millions of Iraqis. In addition, schools and universities have reopened, and hospitals and clinics are providing care, he said.
"We have some achievements thanks to the United States of America and our great friend President Bush," Talabani said. "We achieved some good, important successes. Besides some failure in the security, we have also successes in bringing democracy for the first time to Iraq."
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