U.S., British Leaders Say They Won't Abandon Iraq
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 16, 2004 The top U.S. and British leaders today pledged their nations' continued support for a free and democratic Iraq despite all obstacles.
President George Bush, accompanied by British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a White House press conference, told reporters he and Blair are resolved to stand fast with Iraqis and will not "abandon them in their hour of need."
"The prime minister and I have made our choice," Bush declared. "Iraq will be free. Iraq will be independent. Iraq will be a peaceful nation.
"And, we will not waver in the face of fear and intimidation."
Bush acknowledged the upsurge of violence directed against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, noting, "The past few weeks have been hard and the days ahead will surely bring their own challenges."
Recent attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in the Fallujah region west of Baghdad and against troops serving 100 miles south near Najaf, Bush said, are part of "an attempted power grab by extremists and terrorists."
The U.S.-led coalition, Bush vowed, "will not allow Iraq's future to be stolen by a violent few," adding Iraq's people aren't eager "to trade one tyrant for another."
The president praised the courage of the Iraqi people and pledged the June 30 transfer of authority to a sovereign Iraqi government "will be kept." On that date "the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist," Bush said, while "coalition forces will remain in Iraq to help the new government succeed."
America and Britain have stood "side by side" since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Blair observed, noting the two countries are also united to see democracy established in Iraq.
"Our plan to do this is clear and we shall see it through," the British prime minister declared.
Blair then outlined some key points of U.S.-coalition political and military strategy in Iraq:
- Stand firm, "to do what it takes to win this struggle."
- Hold "absolutely," to the June 30 timetable of transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people.
- Redouble efforts to enable Iraqis to take increased responsibility for their security and law and order.
- Continue reconstruction and encourage investment across the country to benefit all Iraqis.
- Work with the United Nations for it to have a "central role in developing the program and machinery for political transition" to Iraqi democracy.
"And, we will seek a new U.N. Security Council resolution to embody the political and security way forward" in Iraq, Blair said.
Bush praised the efforts of U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who visited Iraq with other U.N. specialists to investigate ways to form an interim Iraqi government after the CPA disbands and to assemble the necessary infrastructure for upcoming elections in January.
Brahimi, slated to report his findings to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, has "identified a way forward to establishing an interim government that is broadly acceptable to the Iraqi people," Bush noted.
"Our coalition partners," the president continued, "will continue to work with the U.N. to prepare for nationwide elections that will choose a new government in January of 2005."
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