Video: War to define Bush's presidency

updated 3/22/2006 9:14:11 PM ET 2006-03-23T02:14:11

President Bush said Wednesday he feels Iraqi political figures need to urgently get a representative government together that can unify a nation now embroiled in civil strife.

“It’s time,” Bush said. “It’s time to get a government in place.”

Speaking for the third time in three days about Iraq and the war against terrorism, he also said it’s important for Iraqi security forces to begin taking the lead in the fight for their future.

“It’s the Iraqis’ fight,” the president told an audience here. “These troops that we’re training are going to have to stand up and defend their democracy.”

Backs freedom of worship
Bush also said that he was upset that an Afghan man is being tried for converting to Christianity. Abdul Rahman, 41, faces a possible death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago. He has been charged with rejecting Islam, a crime under this country’s Islamic laws.

“We expect them to honor the universal principle of freedom,” Bush said at Capitol Music Hall, an ornate theater downtown. “I’m troubled when I hear, deeply troubled when I hear, the fact that a person who converted away from Islam may be held to account. ... I look forward to working with the government of that country to make sure that people are protected in their capacity to worship.”

Bush claimed success in Afghanistan. “We removed the Taliban from power, we’ve denied al-Qaida safe have and that young country, that young democracy is now beginning to grow. Twenty-five million people are liberated as a result of the United States defending itself,” he said.

He acknowledged, however, that there was more work to be done.

Bush’s remarks about the war on terrorism comes as violence is on the rise along the rugged Pakistan-Afghan border where Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding. The violence has sent relations between the two countries to new lows and underscored U.S. difficulties in containing a troubled region crucial to winning the war on terror.

‘There is no middle ground’
More than four years after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, an intensifying campaign of bombings, including 30 suicide attacks since the fall, have targeted foreign troops, Afghan security forces and local authorities.

He said the best way to defend America is to stay on the offensive, and he cautioned Americans against forgetting about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“They declared war and we have got to take their declaration of war seriously,” Bush said.

He said the enemy is not a nation, so they need places to hide, and they have an ideology.

“You can’t negotiate with these folks,” Bush said. “There is no middle ground.”

Bush spoke to an audience of an estimated 2,000 people. Tickets were issued by the local Chamber of Commerce, including 100 given to the local newspaper to distribute, and about 250 military families.

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