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President Bush: Iraq Not on Brink of Civil War

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2006 – President Bush said he relies on military advisors and other officials on the ground in Iraq to keep him abreast of the situation in the country, and they’re telling him civil war is not imminent.

“This notion that we’re in civil war is just not true according to them,” he told Wolf Blitzer in an interview taped earlier this week that aired today.

The Iraqis have an unbelievable will and resiliency, he said citing evidence that the country is strengthening its fledgling democracy. He said he’s impressed by Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s strength and character as well as the decision-making process he’s put in place. Bush also noted the Iraqi army is still recruiting and training new members.

“There’s a strong will for democracy,” Bush said. “I fully recognize it’s still dangerous and there’s still work to do.”

Those at the Iraqi government’s highest levels are carrying their share of the workload, as well, Bush said.

However, one effort by Maliki, a hug and kiss for the Iranian president during a visit to Tehran, has caused many to raise a collective eyebrow. Bush, however, said he read nothing into the gesture and that Maliki’s trip to Tehran was simply a necessary discussion between leaders.

“What’s going on here is you’ve got the president of a sovereign nation going to a neighbor and making it clear to the neighbor to stop meddling with their new democracy,” Bush said. “(Maliki) is a man who is dedicated and committed to a unity government (and) is taking great risks to advance the cause of peace and unity in his country.”

Amid questions surrounding the state of affairs in Iraq, Bush said he “strongly stands by” his decision to remove Saddam Hussein.

“I viewed Saddam Hussein for what he was, a threat,” Bush said. “Now we’ve got to help this young democracy survive.”

The president acknowledged that other threats exist in the world -- North Korea and Iran among them -- and said he takes each one seriously. Each threat, however, must be dealt with individually, Bush said.

“My judgment is you’ve got to take everybody’s word seriously in this world. You can’t just hope for the best,” he said. “Absolutely I take (Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) seriously, just like I take al Qaeda seriously when they say they’re going to attack us again, just like I take these extremists seriously when they say they’re trying to disrupt democracies.”

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