Bush Tells Iraqi President US Support won't Waver
Bush Tells Iraqi President U.S. Support "Will Not Waver"
U.S. president says Iraqi people can be proud of their draft constitution
President Bush reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to helping the Iraqi people build a peaceful and free democracy and described the country’s recently drafted constitution as a “historic milestone.”
Speaking at the White House September 13 with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Bush told the Iraqi leader, "I pledge we will not waver, and I appreciate your same pledge. Iraq will take its place among the world's democracies. The enemies of freedom will be defeated.”
Bush compared the ideology of terrorists in Iraq fighting Iraqi, U.S., and other international forces to that of the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan and al-Qaida agents who carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.
“Their vision is for an Iraq that looks like Afghanistan under the Taliban, a society where freedom is crushed, girls are denied schooling, and terrorists have a safe haven to plot attacks on America and other free people,” he said.
The president praised Iraq’s draft constitution, saying the Iraqi people “can be proud” of it when they have a chance to “vote their conscience” and ratify the document in a referendum scheduled for October.
The draft constitution, Bush said, “protects fundamental freedoms, including religion, assembly, conscience and expression.” The proposed federal system of government “is essential to preserving the unity of a diverse nation like Iraq,” he said, and the document “declares that all Iraqis are equal before the law, without regard to gender, ethnicity and religion.”
Welcoming Talabani to the United States, Bush thanked him for Iraq’s “generous pledge of aid” to the victims of Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and said that when the Iraqi leader attends the U.N. High-Level Plenary Meeting in New York September 14, that session “will mark the first time in a half-century that Iraq is represented by a freely elected government.”
Speaking on behalf of the Iraqi people, Talabani thanked Bush and the American people for “liberat[ing] us from the worst kind of dictatorship” under the former regime of Saddam Hussein.
“We salute you. We are grateful to you. We'll never forget what you have done for our people,” Talabani said. Expressing regret for American losses in his country, he said “a great people like America have a mission in … history,” and cited troops killed in both World Wars and in recent conflicts in the Balkans and Afghanistan.
The Iraqi president said no timetable for the withdrawal of American or other international forces from Iraq will be set because it would encourage the terrorists.
“We hope that by the end of 2006 our security forces are up to the level of taking responsibility from many American troops with complete agreement with America,” he said, but added, “We don't want to do anything without the agreement with the Americans because we don't want to give any signal to the terrorists that our will to defeat them is weakened or they can defeat us.”
COMMENTS ON SYRIA, IRAN, HURRICANE KATRINA
Bush said Iraq’s neighbor Syria “can do a lot more” to prevent foreign fighters from crossing its border into Iraq, and that President Bashar al-Asad “must understand we take his lack of action seriously.”
He warned that the Syrian government “is going to become more and more isolated” not only for being uncooperative on its border with Iraq, but also for “not being fully transparent about what they did in Lebanon.”
Talabani appealed to Iraq’s neighbors to “stop attacking Iraqi democracy” and to “join us in fighting against terrorism.”
“We want our Arab brothers stopping the media, at least the official media, to support terrorism. We want them to stand with us against terrorism, because the terrorism is the enemy of all Arab and Muslim countries in the world,” the Iraqi president said.
Asked about Iran’s nuclear program, Bush said it is important for the international community to understand that “Iran with a nuclear weapon will be incredibly destabilizing.”
He described the idea of allowing that country to receive enriched uranium from a third country, with international inspections, as “a rational approach” to Iran’s stated desire for a civilian nuclear program, even though he questioned whether Iran needs a civilian program since "they're awash with hydrocarbons.”
“Nevertheless, it's a right of a government to want to have a civilian nuclear program,” Bush said, “but there ought to be guidelines in which they be allowed to have that civilian nuclear program … in such a way that they don't gain the expertise necessary to be able to enrich.”
Turning to Hurricane Katrina, Bush took responsibility for federal shortcomings in the response to the disaster.
“Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility,” he said.
Bush said he wants to know “what went right, and what went wrong” in the disaster response, as well as how to better cooperate with state and local authorities so as to better respond to national disasters in the future.