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Bush Pleased With Progress in Iraq, Explains N. Korea Steps

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2005 – President Bush said the Iraqi people are making good progress in creating a democracy in the nation and said that as the democracy takes root, more people will see the benefits.

He spoke during a White House press conference April 28. The president also spoke about North Korea.

"There are still some in Iraq who aren't happy with democracy," Bush said. "They want to go back to the old days of tyranny and darkness, torture chambers and mass graves. I believe we're making really good progress in Iraq, because the Iraqi people are beginning to see the benefits of a free society."

The president said he was pleased with Iraqi officials' announcing their cabinet. He also praised the training effort coalition forces have undertaken to form the Iraqi army and Iraqi police.

"The Iraqi military is being trained by our military, and they're performing much better than the past," Bush said. "The more secure Iraq becomes, as a result of the hard work of Iraqi security forces, the more confidence the people will have in the process, and the more isolated the terrorists will become."

But Iraq still has problems and still has terrorists willing to kill vast numbers of people to intimidate the population and bring back the excesses of the former regime. "We will work with the Iraqis to secure their future," the president said.

"A free Iraq in the midst of the Middle East is an important part of spreading peace. It's a region of the world where a lot of folks in the past never thought democracy could take hold. Democracy is taking hold. And as democracy takes hold, peace will more likely be the norm."

Bush said he would not lay out a timetable for pulling troops from Iraq. "All that will do is cause an enemy to adjust," he said. "So my answer is, 'As soon as possible.' And as soon as possible depends upon the Iraqis being able to fight and do the job."

The president said the number of U.S. troops in Iraq - now under 140,000 - is not limiting his options elsewhere in the world. In Korea, for example, the U.S. troop levels have dropped. But the U.S. has made up for that by increasing other capabilities in the nation.

"(North Korean leader) Kim Jong-il is a dangerous person," Bush said. "He's a man who starves his people. He's got huge concentration camps. And ... there is concern about his capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon. We don't know if he can or not, but I think it's best when you're dealing with a tyrant like Kim Jong-il to assume he can."

The president said the best way to deal with North Korea is via diplomacy. He said the United States tried a bilateral approach, and it didn't work.

"I felt a better approach would be to include people in the neighborhood, into a consortium to deal with him," Bush said. "It's particularly important to have China involved. China has got a lot of influence in North Korea."

Still the president isn't relying solely on diplomacy. He said the missile defense system could offer at least limited protection from a North Korean strike. "We've got a comprehensive strategy in dealing with him," Bush said, referring to Kim Jong-il.

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Transcript of President's Press Conference

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