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Bush: Coalition 'slowly but surely' stabilizing Iraq

American soldier shot dead on guard duty in Baghdad

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President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld listen to reporters' questions in Crawford, Texas.

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CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- One hundred days after he declared an end to major combat operations, President Bush said Friday that coalition forces were "slowly but surely" bringing stability to Iraq, which he characterized as vital to winning the war on terrorism.

Bush told reporters Friday that security in Iraq has improved and that in some areas the infrastructure has been restored to prewar levels.

"We've been there 100 days. We've made a lot of progress in 100 days. And I am pleased with the progress we've made but fully recognize we've got a lot more work to do," Bush said after a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

When asked how long the U.S. occupation would last, Bush said "as long as it takes to win this war on terror.

"We've got a lot of brave soldiers slowly but surely demolishing the elements of the Baathist regime, those foreign terrorists that feel like they can use Iraq as a place to arm up and inflict casualty, or perhaps gain strength to come and attack Americans elsewhere," Bush said.

The American death toll has risen steadily since Bush declared the end of major combat May 1. Of the 122 service members who have died since then, 56 were killed in hostile fire. Since the start of the war, 260 U.S. troops have been killed -- 171 of them in hostile fire.

The most recent was Thursday night, when an 82nd Airborne Division soldier on guard duty in Baghdad's Mansour district was shot and killed, according to U.S. Central Command. He died shortly after being taken to a nearby medical facility. The shooting is being investigated.

Two U.S. soldiers were killed in a firefight late Wednesday in Baghdad's Rasheed neighborhood, according to Central Command. The soldiers from the 1st Armored Division were evacuated to the 407th Forward Support Battalion medical facility.

One soldier died on the scene and the other afterward from wounds received in the attack. An interpreter also was wounded and was treated at the medical facility.

In addition, three soldiers died in the past 24 hours from "nonhostile" causes, U.S. military officials said Friday. A 4th Infantry Division soldier died Friday in his sleep at a base camp in Kirkush, and a soldier with the 504th Military Police Battalion died in a vehicle accident during a high-speed chase. A 1st Armored Division soldier died from a gunshot wound determined to be nonhostile, officials said. The deaths are being investigated.

A fourth soldier died Wednesday at a military hospital in Germany after being evacuated from Iraq, military officials said. They identified him as Spc. Zeferino E. Colunga, 20, of Bellville, Texas.

Officials said Colunga died of pneumonia, adding that it was not the same strain that has fueled an outbreak among U.S. military personnel in the Persian Gulf region.

"First of all, we suffer when we lose life. I mean, our country's a country that grieves with those who sacrifice. And our heartfelt sympathies and appreciation go to the loved ones of any soldier who's willing to defend the security of the United States, and that's what they're doing in Iraq," Bush said.

Other developments

• U.S. troops shot and killed two Iraqis on Friday who were believed to have been making an illegal weapons deal in a market in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. Lt. Col. Steve Russell of the 4th Infantry Division said his soldiers opened fire on the men because they had illegal weapons and were seen as a potential threat. He said the Iraqis had not fired on the soldiers.

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An Iraqi girl stands among the charred debris Friday at the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad.

• Morgue officials on Friday updated the death toll from a car bomb attack outside the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, saying at least 16 people died in Thursday's explosion. At least 10 were initially believed dead. As many as 40 people were wounded in the blast, according to Lt. Col. Eric Nantz, a U.S. military spokesman. Five Iraqi guards were among the dead. (Gallery: Scenes from the explosion site)

• U.S. officials said former Iraqi Defense Minister Sadi Tuma Abbas has surrendered to American forces and is in custody. They said they hoped that Abbas, who was more recently the labor and social affairs minister, might be helpful in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction and former regime officials. Abbas was not highlighted in the deck of cards depicting Iraqi leaders who were on the U.S. military's most-wanted list.


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