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U.S.: Region Reacts To Bush Speech On Iraq

Bush making his speech at Fort Bragg In a televised national address yesterday, President George W. Bush said prevailing in the Iraqi conflict is vital to the future security of the United States. Seeking to bolster support for the ongoing war, Bush also compared the Iraqi insurgents to the hijackers who carried out the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. RFE/RL looks at reactions from officials and politicians in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Afghanistan.

Prague, 29 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Dr. Rangeen Dadfar Spanta is Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s advisor on international affairs. He tells RFE/RL he believes the United States needs more time in Iraq.

He also says a democratic and peaceful Iraq would help stabilize the broader Middle East, including Afghanistan.

“A democratic Iraq is in the benefit of Afghanistan. The defeat of terrorism in Iraq will in fact help defeat terrorism in Afghanistan and the defeat of terrorism in Afghanistan could help suppress terrorism in Iraq," Spanta said.

Spanta is reacting to yesterday’s speech by U.S. President George W. Bush, who said the sacrifices needed for victory in Iraq are worth the cost.

Speaking before U.S. soldiers at the Fort Bragg military base in the state of North Carolina, Bush rejected setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers, saying American troops would remain in Iraq until Iraqi forces are able to defend Iraq's young democracy.

"Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down," Bush said.

Bush added that the United States is committed to helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an American ally in the war on terror, and to advancing the cause of freedom in the broader Middle East.

Rasim Musabekov, a leader of Azerbaijan’s opposition Musavat party, agrees that the U.S. Army needs to stay in Iraq until it fulfills its mission.

“If the American Army withdraws from Iraq early, there will be an un-manageable situation in the region. And it would affect negatively the situation in both the neighboring countries and the world,” Musabekov said.

To complete its mission, Bush stressed, the U.S. Army will have to prevent terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban: “a safe haven from which they could launch attacks.”

However, Afghan presidential advisor Spanta highlights a major difference between the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"In Afghanistan, the majority of people are not against the presence of the U.S. because the U.S. and its forces came here based on international principles, and lately based on a bilateral agreement and their presence for the fight against terrorism is a policy of liberating Afghanistan. Afghan people have agreed with it but in Iraq it seems that it’s not the case,” Spanta said.

In Central Asia, the leader of Kyrgyzstan's Justice and Progress party, Dr. Muratbek Imanaliyev, agrees that the United States has to stay in Iraq much longer. Imanaliyev, who is also a former Kyrgyz foreign minister, says up to five years are needed to stabilize the country.

Imanaliyev also urges U.S. and Iraqi authorities to pursue economic projects and to include more Iraqis in the oil industry.

"The overall situation with the Kurds is becoming stabilized. However, [both Baghdad and Washington] have to work efficiently with Shi'a and Sunni groups. The groups need to be united, reconciled and in consensus. It is impossible to deal [with Iraqi affairs] without that. Of course, it became hard to deal with the issues by [only] military means," Imanaliyev said.

In his speech, Bush insisted that Iraqi insurgents would not succeed shaking America's determination.

However, Kazakh pro-president parliament member Serik Abdrakhmanov criticizes the Bush administration’s methods in the war against terrorism.

“Of course it’s necessary to fight terrorism. But it will never do to use terrorism against terrorism. Before sending troops to Iraq, Bush frightened the whole world, saying [Iraq was still seeking to develop] nuclear weapons. It came to be false, and whatever Bush says sounds good, but his deeds are different,” Abdrakhmanov said.

Bush's address came with opinion polls showing Bush's popularity has fallen to the lowest levels of his presidency, in part due to growing concerns among Americans about the Iraq war.

(RFE/RL’s Afghan, Azerbaijani, Kyrgyz, and Kazakh Services contributed to this report.)