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Bush: Victory in Iraq 'Certain But Not Complete'

Bush: Victory in Iraq 'Certain But Not Complete'

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush declared Tuesday that "our victory in Iraq is certain, but not complete" as he voiced satisfaction with U.S. military success in ending the regime of Saddam Hussein.

"These are good days in the history of freedom," Bush said in a Rose Garden appearance.

"In Iraq, the regime of Saddam Hussein is no more," Bush said.

"Today the world is safer. The terrorists have lost an ally. The Iraqi people are regaining control of their own destiny," he said.

The president spoke a day after the Pentagon declared that major combat had ended in Iraq.

"Our victory in Iraq is certain but it is not complete," Bush said. "Centralized power of the dictator is ended, yet in parts of Iraq, desperate and dangerous elements remain. Forces of our coalition will engage these enemies until they surrender or until they're destroyed."

Bush made the comments on the war at a Rose Garden rally for his tax-cut proposals.

It was Bush's first comments on the progress of the war since Saddam's hometown -- and last stronghold of Tikrit -- fell on Monday. War planners are now restructuring and enlarging the American force as sporadic fighting winds down and troops increasingly focus on providing humanitarian aid and looking for weapons of mass destruction.

"We'll help destroy the former regime's weapons of mass destruction and we'll help the Iraqi people establish a just and representative government which respects human rights and adheres to the rule of law," Bush said.

"As one phase of this operation begins to wind down, another phase begins," Secretary of State Colin Powell said in a separate appearance.

In Iraq, the first post-Saddam meeting of the nation's religious and political groups was meeting under U.S. auspices.

"These tasks will take effort, and these tasks will take time. but I have faith in the Iraqi people and I believe that a free Iraq can be an example of reform and progress to all the Middle East," Bush said.

The president said the swift conclusion of large-scale combat in Iraq sends "a clear message to all who would threaten us and their friends and allies."

"When we make a pledge, we mean it. We keep our world and what we begin we will finish," Bush declared.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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