President Bush said Tuesday that the United States will not relent in its support of Iraq's new and fragile democracy despite "acts of staggering brutality" in the country.
"I pledge we will not waver, and I appreciate your same pledge," he told Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in a news conference in the East Room of the White House. "Iraq will take its place among the world's democracies."
Talabani railed against the insurgents in his country and said U.S. forces are still needed in Iraq, despite some calls in the United States to start bringing them home.
"We will set no timetable for withdrawal. A timetable will help the terrorists," Talabani said. He said he hopes that Iraqi security forces will be ready to take responsibility for the country by the end of 2006.
"As soon as possible, of course, we hope that American troops can proudly return home," he said.
In other developments:U.S. forces along the Euphrates River attacked the insurgent stronghold of Haditha early Tuesday, capturing a militant with ties to al Qaeda in Iraq and killing four others, the military said. The assault on Haditha followed a recent offensive to retake Tal Afar, another northern town, which U.S. commanders said netted more than 400 suspected militants. The Iraqi military said its troops had detained 36 others, including a Yemeni citizen, just south of Tal Afar.In southern Iraq, a roadside bomb exploded near a convoy of Iraqi security guards and foreign contract workers outside Basra, killing four people, police said. While one Iraqi official said the four dead were Americans, U.S. officials were unable to confirm the report.President Bush is balancing a harried schedule of diplomatic duties — from Iraq to China and the United Nations — while working to stay on top of hurricane recovery efforts that most Americans say should be his No. 1 priority. "I can do more than one thing at one time," the president assured Monday on the first of two planned visits this week to the Gulf Coast. He's fitting those in between meetings with world leaders who came to the United States for a gathering of the United Nations in New York. Also while speaking Tuesday, Mr. Bush claimed responsibility for the criticized response effort to Hurricane Katrina.Turkey's Anatolia news agency reports three Turkish engineers held nearly two months in Iraq have been returned home.Americans seem to have shifted their focus away from Iraq and terrorist threats to problems at home. For the first time since the terrorist attacks on the U.S. four years ago, a majority of Americans responding to a poll by the Pew Research Center last week said it is more important for the president to focus on domestic policy than the war on terrorism. Another poll, by Time magazine, found six in 10 Americans think the U.S. should cut back spending on Iraq to help pay for the storm response.A huge car bomb exploded outside a popular restaurant in Baghdad's upscale Mansour neighborhood Monday night, witnesses said. Hospital officials reported at least one person was killed and 17 were wounded. A doctor at Yarmouk Hospital said most of the victims were women.Gunmen shot and killed a bodyguard of the mayor of Mahmoudiya, a town about 20 miles south of Baghdad. The mayor was unhurt, police said.In Kirkuk, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a police car and killed the two policemen inside. The city, 180 miles north of Baghdad, has been the scene of numerous such attacks.
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