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Bush Says Enemies Testing Coalition Resolution

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2004 – The closer the return of sovereignty comes in Iraq, the more enemies of democracy will challenge the coalition, President Bush said today in Charlotte, N.C.

The president said there is no move to change the date for return of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government. The June 30 date remains firm, Bush said.

The president said the efforts of anti-coalition Shiia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to derail the move to democracy is typical of the type of challenges the coalition will face as June 30 approaches. "(Sadr) is one person who's deciding that rather than allow democracy to flourish, he's going to exercise force," Bush said during a media availability. "And we just can't let it stand."

An Iraqi judge issued an arrest warrant for Sadr in connection with the death of Shiia cleric Ayatollah As Seyed Ala-Majid al-Khoei last year. Sadr and his followers are trying to grab power by force, Bush said. "I think throughout this period there's going to be tests," the president said. "There were tests in Fallujah. And the desire for those who do not want there to be a free and democratic Iraq is to shake our will through acts of violence and terror."

The terrorists also are targeting coalition allies and the Iraqi people, Bush said, and all must remain firm. "And we've got to stay the course and we will stay the course," he said. "The message to the Iraqi citizens is they don't have to fear that America will turn and run. And that's an important message for them to hear. If they think that we're not sincere about staying the course, many people will not continue to take the risk toward freedom and democracy."

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