Washington, 29 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush said yesterday the United States will stay the course in Iraq and will not be intimidated by a new wave of deadly bombings.
At a White House news conference, Bush blamed both loyalists to ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and foreign terrorists for the attacks in and around Baghdad.
At least 34 people were killed and more than 200 wounded in what appeared to be coordinated assaults by suicide bombers who drove carloads of explosives into or near five buildings.
Bush said the bombers, who struck the headquarters of the Red Cross and four Iraqi police stations, are trying to "cause people to run" both in Iraq and Afghanistan, also the scene of stepped-up violence.
The attacks came on the first day of Ramadan, the month-long Muslim holiday marked by fasting. "Desperate attacks on innocent civilians will not intimidate us or the brave Iraqis and Afghans who are joining in their own defense and are moving towards self-governance."
Bush said the United States was working closely with Syria and Iran to prevent foreign fighters from entering Iraq and was stepping up border patrols.
The president comments came one day after Iraqi security forces shot and wounded a man believed to be trying to carry out a car bombing. The man has been tentatively identified as a Syrian national.
During his 40-minute news conference, Bush said the United States is trying to find out who is responsible for the attacks in Iraq.
"We are tying to determine the nature of who these people were, but I would tell you I would assume that they are either, or and probably both Ba'athists and foreign terrorists."
Nearly six months after he declared an end to major combat operations, Bush said Iraq remains a dangerous place because there are some who believe that the United States does not have the will to stabilize and help rebuild the country.
"Iraq is a part of the war on terror, as I said, it's a central front, a new front in the war on terror, and that's exactly what it is. And that's why it's important for us to be tough and strong and diligent." Bush said the world is safer today because Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan's ruling Taliban are gone. He acknowledged that reconstruction is difficult because "freedom still has its enemies in both of those countries."
"The strategy remains the same. The tactics to respond to more suiciders driving cars will alter on the ground -- more checkpoints, whatever they decide how to harden targets will change. And so we're constantly looking at the enemy and adjusting."
Bush was also asked about a private memo U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wrote to aides earlier this month in which he expressed concern about the slow pace of the war against terrorism.
The president said the United States and its allies "have the right strategy" on Iraq. And he said that things are not as bleak as the news headlines suggest.
"There are positive things happening in the midst of the danger. And I hope that countries, when they take a look at the situation there, understand the nature of the terrorists and the strategy of the terrorists and don't back off."