Bush: 'Bring 'em on' was big mistake
Updated: 2006-05-26 10:09 PRIME MINISTER'S GOAL
The two leaders are under
pressure at home to show progress in Iraq so they can start withdrawing their
forces. There are now about 132,000 U.S. troops and 8,000 British troops in the
Blair said he believed it
was possible to meet new Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's goal of having
Iraqi security forces in control of all of Iraq by the end of 2007.
A soldier carries flags at Arlington National
Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 25, 2006. A flag is placed in front
of each of the graves for Memorial Day at the cemetery to commemorate U.S.
service men. [Reuters]
"Listen, I want our troops out -- don't get me wrong," said Bush. "But I
also understand that it is vital that we do the job, that we complete the
He said he would consult with his military commanders in Iraq
about the security situation, as well as with the new Iraqi government about its
needs and that any decision would be made based on the conditions on the ground.
Blair said that "Inevitably, over time, we have to transfer
responsibility" because it will be easier for an Iraqi interior minister "who is
the product of an Iraqi-elected government to go in and take the really tough
measures sometimes that is necessary to sort some of these issues out."
But as for now, he said, "This directly elected Iraqi government has
said they want us to stay until the job is done."
acknowledged the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 had been divisive, but agreed
it was time to look to the future now that the Iraqis had gone to the polls and
freely elected a new government.
"It is our duty, but it is also the
duty of the whole international community to get behind this government and
support it," Blair said.
In Baghdad, gunmen shot and seriously wounded a
senior Defense Ministry official, in what appeared to be part of a campaign to
target top figures in Iraq's U.S.-backed administration. It was a reminder of
the uphill struggle Maliki faces.
The new prime minister, in an
interview with Arabiya television, said there was no reason for the array of
armed gangs and militias in Iraq, now that the country had an elected
government. He said the real problem for the government was the armed gangs,
rather than the organized militias.
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