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Bush Marks Iraq War Anniversary with Vow to Continue Fight Against Terrorism
Scott Stearns
VOA, White House
19 Mar 2004, 18:20 UTC

<b>George Bush</b>
George Bush
President Bush marked the first anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq with a White House speech calling on members of the U.S.-led coalition to stay together in the fight against terrorism.

Representatives from more than 80 nations gathered in the East Room to hear President Bush warn of the dangers of giving in to terrorist threats.

"There can be no separate peace with the terrorist enemy," said President Bush. " Any sign of weakness or retreat simply validates terrorist violence and invites more violence for all nations. The only certain way to protect our people is by united and decisive action."

The president said the invasion of Iraq one year ago was a turning point for the Middle East and a crucial advance for human liberty.

Some key allies - including France, Germany, and Russia - opposed that invasion. Ambassadors from all three countries were present Friday to hear Mr. Bush put those differences aside. "There have been disagreements on this matter among old and valued friends," he said. "Those differences belong to the past. All of us can now agree that the fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression, and instability in the Middle East."

Mr. Bush said a free Iraq will be a devastating set-back to terrorists, so they want to stop democracy by attacking coalition troops and targeting innocent Iraqis and foreign civilians.

The president says terrorists are trying to weaken coalition will but are finding instead coalition resolve.

"We will never turn over Iraq to terrorists who intend our own destruction," continued President Bush. "We will not fail the Iraqi people who have placed their trust in us. Whatever it takes, we will fight and work to assure the success of freedom in Iraq."

But the coalition's resolve was called into question this week when Spain's new Socialist leader said he will pull his country's 1,300 troops out of Iraq unless they are put under U.N. command. Additionally, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski told reporters Thursday that he was considering bringing his troops home from Iraq early and that he felt misled about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The immediacy of the WMD threat was President Bush's biggest justification for invading Iraq. But so far none of those weapons has yet been found.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says President Bush telephoned the Polish leader Friday to discuss Iraq, and Mr. Kwasniewski reaffirmed Poland's commitment to the coalition. Mr. McClellan said the Polish leader meant that it was Saddam Hussein who had misled the world about those weapons.

Friday's White House speech was part of a series of events the administration used to mark the first anniversary of the invasion. Following his remarks, Mr. and Mrs. Bush visited wounded soldiers at an Army hospital outside Washington.