Video: Bush: Iraq and allies

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 3/16/2005 12:38:56 PM ET 2005-03-16T17:38:56

President Bush praised Iraq's new National Assembly, which met for the first time Wednesday, as a "hopeful moment" for the country.

The assembly, the first freely elected parliament in half a century, began its opening session in Baghdad although it has yet to agree on a new government.

"It is a bright moment in what is a process toward writing of a constitution, the ratification of the constitution and elections,” Bush said at a White House news conference. “It’s a hopeful moment I thought.”

Social Security ideas
In his opening statements, Bush also promoted his ideas to reform the Social Security system.

The president said he feels he's made progress in convincing Americans that nothing would change for older Americans under his plan, and that something must be done to make sure the system continues to work for younger Americans.

Congress has made little progress on turning the proposal into legislation, however, even with both houses run by the Republican Party.

A host of polls have shown either opposition or ambivalence on the part of many Americans to Bush’s specific proposal to offer younger workers the alternative of personal savings accounts for retirement.

Bush, acknowledging that his proposal faces some stiff opposition in Congress, said that all aspects of his plan are open to negotiation, as long as payroll taxes are not increased.

Allies and Iraq
Asked about Italy's move to start drawing down its 3,000 troops in Iraq, Bush said he understands that desire of U.S. coalition partners to leave once Iraq stabilizes, but he declined to set a timetable for bringing American forces home.

“Our troops will come home when Iraqis are capable of defending themselves,” Bush said, reiterating his policy.

On other questions, the president:

  • Said Iran must permanently ban uranium reprocessing to reassure the world that its government is not concealing a nuclear weapons program. Otherwise, Bush said, he and leaders of European nations that are negotiating with Tehran have agreed to take the issue to the United Nations. “The understanding is we go to the Security Council if they reject the offer,” Bush said. “And I hope they don’t.”
  • Shrugged off a question about detainees being sent by the United States back to their home countries where they could be subject to torture. “The United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack. One way to do so is to arrest people and send them back” to their home countries, he said. “We seek assurances that no one will be tortured.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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