Bush Outlines Five-Step Plan For Iraq Self-Rule

Addressing the Army War College in Carlisle, Bush said a transitional Iraqi government will take over on June 30 to set stage for January elections that will choose a national assembly to draft a new constitution, allowing a permanent government to be chosen by the end of next year, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"Completing the five steps to Iraqi elected self-government will not be easy," Bush said in what is seen as part of a series of confidence-building speeches.

"There is likely to be violence before the transfer of sovereignty and after the transfer of sovereignty."

Bush also warned anew that "there are difficult days ahead and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic".

Yet he vowed the U.S. "will persevere, and defeat this enemy, and hold this hard-won ground for the realm of liberty".

Faced with new polls showing only 41 to 47 percent of the American public approving his performance, Bush sought to convince voters that he would seek greater international support for the Iraqi transition and expand the number of foreign troops contributors to the so-called stabilization force in Iraq.

"We will … encourage more international support and move toward a national election that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people," he said.

Earlier Monday, the United States and Britain presented a new draft resolution on Iraq to the U.N. Security Council, in a bid to gain global support for the plan.

But crucial issues such as the relationship between the occupation forces and the new Iraqi government would only be clarified once the new government is assembled by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

Bush said Brahimi would name members of the transitional government this week.

In addition to the effort at the U.N., Bush said he would look for a bigger contribution from NATO and the White House said the issue would be a major item on the agenda when the alliance’s leaders meet next month in Istanbul.

No Withdrawal Deadline

However, wartime Bush did not set out a specific date for the withdrawal of U.S.-led occupation forces from the oil-rich country.

Instead, he said the current U.S. troop level, which now stands at 138,000, would remain the same for "as long as necessary".

He furthermore stressed that the American forces could grow depending on the situation on the ground and requests from military commanders.

"If they need more troops, I will send them," Bush said.

The U.S.-U.K. draft resolution sets no date for the pullout of their troops from Iraq and gives them wide-ranging powers to maintain order and fight "terrorism".

It calls for the Security Council to review the multinational force after one year, a timetable which could be sped up if the transitional government requests.

Demolishing Abu Gharib

Bush further said that Abu Ghraib prison, the scene of shocking and abhorrent abuses of Iraqi detainees by U.S. troops, would be demolished after Washington constructs a new prison facility.

"When that [new] prison is completed, detainees at Abu Ghraib will be relocated," he said.

"Then, with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison, as a fitting symbol of Iraq’s new beginning."

Bush had denounced the misconduct of as "abhorrent, shameless and unacceptable" and apologized for it.

He appeared on Arab TV channels on May 4 in an attempt to regain trust of the Arab world in the aftermath of the abuse scandal, asserting the behavior of few soldiers does not reflect the American culture and values.

Little New

However, Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry saw little new in Bush’s speech.

"The president laid out general principles tonight, most of which we’ve heard before," the Massachusetts senator said in a statement.

"What’s most important now is to turn these words into action by offering presidential leadership to the nation and to the world.

"That’s going to require the president to genuinely reach out to our allies so the United States doesn’t have to continue to ‘go it alone’ and to create the stability necessary to allow the people of Iraq to move forward," he added.

Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright added that Bush had left open several questions during his speech.

"He laid out five points but they raised as many questions as he provided ideas about," Albright told CNN.

She said Bush did little to assure the public that Iraqis would support the new government, or how to improve security, rebuild the country, bring in additional foreign troops, or hold elections.

"There are many, many questions and I don’t think there was anything particularly new. It was a little bit more organized than the ideas that we’ve heard before.

"The question is whether the president now has the credibility to bring about the kind of international cooperation he is calling for," Albright said.

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