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Bush praises Iraqi interim government

Warns of 'violent people who want to stop progress'


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George W. Bush
Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iraq's caretaker government is "a game-changer, an agent of change" in the Middle East, President Bush said Tuesday. But he warned that violence would go on as that government assumes power.

"There's still violent people who want to stop progress," Bush told reporters outside the White House.

"Their strategy hasn't changed. They want to kill innocent life to shake our will ... and they're not going to shake our will." (Interim Iraqi government named)

Bush said the new government has "the talent, the commitment and the resolve to guide Iraq through the challenges that lie ahead." (Today in Iraq: Car bomb near Baji)

He thanked Iraq's designated prime minister, Iyad Allawi, for welcoming the aid of U.S. troops -- nearly 140,000 of whom are expected to remain there through 2005.

"He was speaking to the mothers and dads and wives and husbands of our troops who have helped them become a free country, and I am thankful for that statement," Bush said.

U.S. troops in Iraq will remain under American command, but Bush said they will operate in consultation with the new Iraqi government.

He disputed suggestions that the presence of U.S. forces means the new government will be less than fully sovereign, but said it "will need the help of a lot of people." (Australia's Howard to meet with Bush)

The caretaker government is scheduled to take power at midnight June 30 and is expected to hold power until elections can be held in December or January.

U.N. envoy Lakdhar Brahimi introduced the slate Tuesday in Baghdad, and Bush said he had "no role" in picking the new government -- "zero."

Rice, Powell upbeat

Earlier, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said the establishment of a new Iraqi government is the first step in President Bush's strategy to establish a free and democratic Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"As the president said, a free and self-governing Iraq will deny terrorists a base of operations and discredit their ideology," Rice said.

"A free Iraq will make America more secure and serve as a beacon of reform in the region."

An anti-American insurgency has plagued U.S.-led occupation forces for a year.

But Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iraqis will increasingly take responsibility for their country's security.

"I think the Iraqi people will now see that their destiny is in the hands of their own leaders," he said.

"We are there to help build up Iraqi security forces so that, increasingly, the Iraqi security forces can take on the challenge of providing security for the people of Iraq and defeating the terrorists and former regime fighters who are still trying to take the country backwards."

Rice said the government represents a broad cross-section of Iraqi society.

"I can tell you firmly and without any contradiction that this is a terrific list, a really good government, and we are very pleased with the names that have emerged," Rice said.


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