U.S., Iraqi Presidents Affirm Commitment to See Mission Through
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 13, 2005 Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told President Bush today the Iraqis "will never forget what you have done for our people" as both presidents asserted that they won't set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
President Bush shakes hands with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani after their joint press availability Sept. 13 in the East Room of the White House. Photo by Shealah Craighead
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Talabani, here for his first visit to the White House before attending the U.N. General Assembly's annual meeting, told reporters the United States and Iraq will decide together when U.S. troops should leave Iraq.
He expressed optimism that Iraq's security forces will be prepared to take over full responsibility for Iraq's security by late 2006, but refused to be pinned down to an exact deadline for asking U.S. troops to leave the country.
Such a timetable, the Iraqi president said, "will help the terrorists" and give them the impression that they "could defeat a superpower of the world and the Iraqi people."
Any decision about force withdrawals from Iraq will be made "with complete agreement with the Americans," Talabani said. "We don't want to give any signal to the terrorists that our will to defeat them is weakened or they can defeat us," he noted.
Bush pledged that the United States "will not waiver" in its resolve and will remain in Iraq as long as needed while Iraq takes "its place among the world's democracies."
"As Iraqis stand up, Americans will stand down," the president said. "And when the mission is completed, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned."
In the meantime, as an insurgency continues to threaten Iraq's forward progress, Talabani called the coalition presence in Iraq "vital for democracy in Iraq and in the Middle East, and also, for (preventing) foreign interference in the internal affairs of Iraq."
Talabani thanked the United States for liberating Iraq "from the worst kind of dictatorship" that he said caused extensive suffering throughout Iraq. And to anyone who questions if the coalition mission in Iraq was the right thing, he said: "Please come to Iraq to visit the mass graves, to see what happened to Iraqi people and to see what now is going on in Iraq."
The Iraqi president said success in Iraq will have lasting effects on the region. "Democracy is the solution to the problems in the Middle East," Talabani said, vowing to remain a partner with the United States in "fighting against tyranny, terrorism and for democracy."
Talabani expressed optimism about Iraq's draft constitution, acknowledging that although it's "not perfect," it's "the best constitution in the entire region" and offers extensive protections and freedoms for all Iraqis.
Bush shared Talabani's hope that the Iraqi people will ratify the constitution during next month's referendum. The draft constitution is "a historic milestone," that the "Iraqi people can be proud of," Bush said.
"And when an election to ratify the constitution is held next month," he added, "they will have a chance to vote their conscience at the polls."