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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Facing political discord over the war in Iraq, President Bush tries to reassure voters Monday that hundreds of Americans have not died in vain, and to tell the world he has a blueprint to create a democratic nation.
Five months before the U.S. election and just five weeks before the June 30 hand-off of political power in Iraq, Bush travels late Monday to the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., to give the first in a series of speeches about the future of Iraq.
Worldwide attention is focused on the transfer of sovereignty next month, but the president is expected to lay out a timeline in Iraq that extends until elections are held early next year.
He was to offer a "clear strategy" for getting there, but was not expected to address the question of when American troops will return from Iraq, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Monday.
With an eye on the future, Bush's prime-time speech will address two issues dominating U.S. efforts in Iraq: The creation of a new Iraqi interim government, whose leaders are to be announced within days, and ways to improve security in areas of Iraq still rife with violence.
He will lay out "specific steps we are taking to move forward on the transition toward a free, democratic and and peaceful Iraq," McClellan said. They are:
--Working with the United Nations in naming interim government leaders.
--Eliminating security threats and bolstering Iraqi police forces.
--Rebuilding the country by focusing on reconstructing infrastructure.
--Broadening international support, primarily through a U.N. resolution that will detail the June 30 handover of power to a new Iraqi government and outline how much say Iraqis will have over armed forces in their country. The United States and Britain presented a new U.N. resolution Monday that would transfer "governing authority" in Iraq to a sovereign interim government by June 30 and authorize a multinational force to maintain peace with Iraqis' consent.
Bush got a fresh reminder of the challenge of maintaining his coalition on Monday morning when he spoke to President-elect Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic. That country pulled its troops out of Iraq this month.
Bush reviewed drafts of his speech over the weekend while traveling in Texas and Connecticut to attend parties celebrating his daughters' college graduations. He rehearsed the approximately half-hour address Monday in the White House theater.
"He needs to demonstrate an appreciation for the hole we're in," said Ivo Daalder, a foreign policy analyst at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution. "He shouldn't minimize the problems that we are confronting. He can't give the same speech that everything is going fine and `I'm committed to seeing it through."'
In his speech, Bush will talk about the new unelected, interim Iraqi government that will guide the country until elections can be held by Jan. 31, 2005. He has lauded the work of U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who is hand-picking an Iraqi prime minister, president and two vice presidents who will work with a cabinet of ministers in running day-to-day operations until elections can be held.
It's a pivotal time in Iraq and the president's re-election campaign. Bush's approval ratings have sunk, according to some polls, to the lowest point of his presidency. Skepticism, mixed with fear of moving down an untraveled path in Iraq, is rising among Iraqis and Americans.
As in most cities Bush visits these days, he was welcomed in New Haven, Conn., on Sunday by flag-waving residents as well as anti-war protesters, including one who carried a sign that read "Iraq Vietnam."
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)