- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

President Bush said yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia underscored the urgency of his plan to battle terrorists throughout the Middle East in his second term.

“The attacks in Saudi Arabia remind us that the terrorists are still on the move,” he said during the first of two Oval Office meetings with Middle East leaders.

“They’re interested in affecting the will of free countries,” he said after discussing terrorism with Iraqi President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer. “They want us to leave Saudi Arabia; they want us to leave Iraq.

“They want us to grow timid and weary in the face of their willingness to kill randomly and kill innocent people,” he added. “And that’s why these elections in Iraq are very important.”

Mr. al-Yawer agreed with Mr. Bush that elections should proceed as scheduled on Jan. 30.

“It’ll send a clear message to the few people in Iraq that are trying to stop the march to a democracy that they cannot stop elections,” he said. “We’re faced with the armies of darkness, who have no objective but to undermine the political process and incite civil war in Iraq.”

He insisted the terrorists “will never, ever” prevail, especially now that so many Iraqis and Americans have given their lives to free Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny.

“After all these sacrifices, there’s no way on Earth that we will let it go in vain,” Mr. al-Yawer said. “Victory is not only possible, it’s a fact. We can see it. It’s there.”

He added: “We see that our enemy is an enemy that has only a short time because they have no roots in the Iraqi society. They have no ideology that they can sell to Iraq or the whole world.”

Mr. Bush said successful elections in Iraq will help spread freedom throughout the Middle East.

“And so in a second term, not only will I work with our Iraqi friends to help them achieve democracy,” he said, “but I’ll also spend time and efforts to help the Palestinian people grow their own state and own democracy so we can achieve peace.”

White House press secretary Scott McClellan explained that Mr. Bush is eager to re-engage on the issue of Middle East peace now that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is dead.

“We can seize this opportunity,” he said. “Moving forward on advancing freedom and democracy in the Middle East is one of the cornerstones of his second term agenda.”

Mr. Bush also met with Jordan’s King Abdullah to press his vision for a free Palestinian state in the post-Arafat era.

“We have a moment, a window of opportunity,” Mr. Bush enthused. “And I intend to work very closely with his majesty to seize that moment for the good of the Palestinian people and for the good of the Israelis, so that we can achieve peace.”

The monarch praised Mr. Bush’s determination for change in the Middle East.

“You have been committed in the past four years in identifying a future for the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the Israelis and the Arabs,” he said. “And I’m very delighted with that strong stand that you’ve always taken for a better Middle East.”

Mr. al-Yawer was even more effusive in his praise of Mr. Bush and America.

“We in Iraq are in debt [to] the United States and the courageous leadership of President Bush [for] liberating Iraq from a dynasty of villains,” he said. “I just came here to tell the president of the United States and the American public that we in Iraq are very appreciative for all the sacrifices, that this is a job that we see has honor and even a duty that we have to make everybody free.”

Meanwhile, Iraqi Minister of Public Works Nasreen Mustafa Sadiq Barwari said yesterday she hoped the U.S.-led multinational forces could leave Iraq within 12 months.

U.S. officials have said they expect to have troops on the ground in Iraq for several years to come, until the country is fully back on its feet.

Asked how long she expected U.S.-led forces would stay, Mrs. Barwari said, “We hope not for too long.”

The minister said she expected multinational troops to stay in Iraq as long as it took to establish stability and democracy in the country.

“We hope we are talking about months — maximum 12 months — but it is all up to the development that will take place.”

• Sharon Behn contributed to this report.

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