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Bush: U.S., Iraqi Leaders Stand Firmly United

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2006 – President Bush praised Iraqi Prime Minister Mouri al-Maliki’s leadership today and said he reminds Maliki regularly that “we’re with him so long as he continues to make tough decisions” for Iraq to succeed.

Speaking at a White House news conference, Bush called Maliki “the right man to achieve the goal in Iraq.”

“He’s got a hard job,” confronting internal pressures ranging from sectarian violence to criminals to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, the president said. “And he wants to achieve the same objective that I want to achieve.”

Bush said he’s impressed by Maliki’s efforts in getting Sunni and Shiite religious leaders to begin working together and by the prime minister’s firm stand against militias. Both leaders recognize that militias operating within Iraq threaten its stability, he said.

The president dismissed questioning about a rift between the two countries following a military operation yesterday in Iraq’s Sadr City neighborhood and discussions about benchmarks toward U.S. troop withdrawals. Coordination between the two leaders is important, but with so many operations taking place, sometimes those communications “may not be as good as they should be,” Bush conceded. “And we will continue to work very closely with the government to make sure that communications are solid.”

Meanwhile, Bush said the United States has assured Maliki that the United States stands firmly with the Iraqi government as it takes the difficult steps required for it to succeed.

“We expect that the Iraqi government will make the hard decisions necessary to unite the country and listen to the will of the 12 million people (who voted in Iraq’s national election),” he said.

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