Bush: Iraq must know it won't be abandoned


(Gold9472: America must know that it hasn't been abandoned.)

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer Sat Jun 17, 12:10 PM ET

CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush, reminding listeners of his surprise trip to Baghdad, said Saturday it was important for the Iraqi people to know after three years of war that "America will not abandon them after we have come this far."

Bush spoke in his weekly radio address as Republicans and Democrats jockeyed for political position on the war with an eye toward the November elections. Following the lead of the Senate, the House on Friday rejected a timetable for pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq after a ferociously partisan debate.

GOP leaders in both the House and Senate sought to put lawmakers on record about the war and tried to draw attention to deep Democratic divisions on the issue.

With a U.S. death toll of 2,500 and a price tag of $320 billion, Iraq weighs heavily on Bush. Approval of Bush's handling of Iraq has dipped to 33 percent, a new low, and his overall job approval rating was 35 percent in a new AP-Ipsos Poll.

Bush flew to Iraq on Tuesday to meet with Iraq's new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and members of his cabinet. He said he was impressed with them and their plan.

"I told them that the future of Iraq is in their hands," Bush said in his radio address. "And I told them that America is a nation that keeps its word, and America will stand with them as we work toward our shared goal: a free Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself."

The trip lasted less than six hours and was a surprise to all but a close circle of advisers. Bush's schedule had him completing a two-day meeting with his war advisers at Camp David on Tuesday, and al-Maliki thought he was participating via videolink.

But al-Maliki was informed about five minutes beforehand that the president had actually arrived in Baghdad and was coming to meet him in person.

"I traveled to Baghdad to personally show our nation's commitment to a free Iraq, because it is vital for the Iraqi people to know with certainty that America will not abandon them after we have come this far," Bush said in the radio address.

"The challenges that remain in Iraq are serious. We face determined enemies who remain intent on killing the innocent, and defeating these enemies will require more sacrifice and the continued patience of our country. But our efforts in Iraq are well worth it, the mission is necessary for the security of our country, and we will succeed."