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Bush: strategy helps Iraq make progress
( 2003-10-12 11:02) (Agencies)

US President Bush on Saturday offered a portrait of Iraq as a country where life is returning to normal after war, insisting that "Iraq is making progress" despite a steady drumbeat of bad news.

Bush said that progress was coming as a result of his "clear strategy." But Democrats retorted, "The president did not plan well for winning the peace and rebuilding the nation."

Bush complained this week that the "filter" of the news media is blocking positive developments from reaching Americans, and he opened a public-relations offensive to present an alternative view.

In his weekly radio address, Bush said Iraq is a place where markets are bustling, shelves are full, oil is flowing and satellite dishes are sprouting up.

"Since the liberation of that country, thousands of new businesses have been launched," Bush said. "With our assistance, Iraqis are building the roads and ports and railways necessary for commerce."

Bush noted other developments: an independent central bank; a new system to absorb foreign capital; a new currency.

He made a new pitch for his $87 billion spending request for military operations and rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan. He said it was critical for helping Iraq reach its potential ! and for keeping America safer from terrorism.

"I urge Congress to pass my budget request soon so this vital work can proceed," Bush said.


In their Saturday radio address, Democrats said Bush must provide a more detailed accounting of how the money is being spent before lawmakers vote on the next budget request, likely next week.

"While the battle to oust Saddam Hussein was well-planned and well-executed, the president did not plan well for winning the peace and rebuilding the nation," said Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind.

"There has been little support from the international community; our troops have been taking almost all the risks, and American taxpayers have been paying all the bills," Hill said.

"Many proposals have been discussed in Congress to ensure accountability" for previous spending in Iraq, which Hill said totaled $63 billion this year.

"The president must be willing to report to Congress ! and the American people ! on how this money is being spent," Hill said. "The missteps of the past several months must not be compounded by wasteful spending, or spending that could be used more wisely elsewhere."


Bush's address on progress in Iraq came at the end of a particularly bloody week there.

A nighttime clash killed two U.S. soldiers and at least one Iraqi in a Shiite Muslim slum late Thursday. Twelve hours earlier, a mysterious car bombing killed 10 people at a nearby police station in Sadr City; across town, gunmen ! one dressed as a Muslim cleric ! shot and killed a Spanish military attache about 30 minutes before the car bombing.

Bush sought to reassure Americans about the alarming violence.

"Coalition forces in Iraq are actively pursuing the terrorists and Saddam holdouts who desperately oppose freedom for the Iraqi people," Bush said.

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