updated 1/10/2006 11:30:26 AM ET 2006-01-10T16:30:26

President Bush urged Iraqis on Tuesday to put aside political, religious and sectarian differences to form a government of national unity, warning that the country "risks sliding back into tyranny" if it dwells on old grievances.

"Compromise and consensus and power sharing are the only path to national unity and lasting democracy," Bush said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

It was the latest in a series of addresses, begun in December, aimed at talking to Americans in more detail about the war in Iraq.

Violence against Iraqis and U.S. troops has surged in recent days.

Bush vowed that the United States would not change course because of the bloodshed.

"We will settle for nothing less than complete victory," the president said.

Bush acknowledged deep differences over his Iraq policy but said, "Support for the mission in Iraq should not be a partisan matter."

He said Americans should hold their leaders to account for how they conduct the debate over the war.

"We also have an opportunity this year to show the Iraqi people what responsible debate in democracy looks like," he said.

Bush said Iraqis have shown they could come together for the sake of national unity, and he urged Shiites to extend an open hand to minority Sunni Arab political groups in the formation of a coalition government.

"It's important that Sunnis who abandoned violence to join the political process now see the benefits of peaceful participation," Bush said.

The president said that "successful free societies protect the rights of minorities against the tyranny of the majority."

"A country that divides into factions and dwells on old grievances cannot move forward and risks sliding back into tyranny," Bush said.

The still-unannounced results of Iraq's parliamentary elections last month are expected to show the religious Shiite United Iraqi Alliance with a strong lead.

The Shiites will, however, need to form a coalition government with support from Kurdish and Sunni Arab political groups.

Bush, in his remarks, said Iraq was making progress in fashioning a democracy in Iraq, rebuilding the economy and training Iraqi forces to take over responsibility for the country's security from American military personnel.

He also pressed foreign governments who have not yet followed through on their financial pledges to Iraq's reconstruction to do so quickly.

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