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Bush says US will persevere in Iraq
Updated: 2004-05-25 08:51

U.S. President Bush, trying to dispel rising doubts about the war, declared Monday night the United States would stay in Iraq until it was free and democratic, but he also said insurgents probably would become "more active and more brutal" and suggested more U.S. soldiers might have to be sent.

He said that the United States would keep its troop level at the current 138,000 as long as necessary but that commanders were constantly reassessing needs. "If they need more troops, I will send them," Bush pledged.

US President Bush addresses the audience at the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., May, 24, 2004. Bush sought to reassure Americans Monday night that he has a plan to pull Iraq out of the violence and chaos that have marked the year since he declared an end to major combat. [AP]
In a prime-time address at the U.S. Army War College, he also promised to demolish the Abu Ghraib prison that has become an ugly symbol of the U.S. occupation.

He spoke for slightly over 30 minutes.

With nearly 800 U.S. soldiers killed so far in Iraq, Bush warned that the violence would continue.

"There are difficult days ahead and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic," he said.

Five months before the U.S. presidential election, Iraq has helped push down Bush's approval rating to a new low and has increased doubts about his handling of the war.

In response, he outlined five steps that he said would help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom: transferring authority to a sovereign new Iraqi government, helping establish security in areas still gripped by chaos, urging broader international support, reconstructing the country and setting up national elections.

"Completing the five steps to Iraqi elected self-government will not be easy," Bush said. "There is likely to be violence before the transfer of sovereignty and after the transfer of sovereignty."

He talked of the assassination this month of the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Izzadine Saleem, and the beheading of American civilian Nicholas Berg. But he continued to express his resolve, saying, "No power of the enemy will stop Iraq's progress."

He said coalition forces and Iraqis have the same enemies — terrorists, illegal militia and loyalists of Saddam Hussein. "Working as allies, we will defend Iraq and defeat these enemies," he said.

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