- The Washington Times - Friday, May 28, 2004

President Bush yesterday thanked Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for promising to keep Denmark’s troops in Iraq, after calling to assure Russian President Vladimir Putin of his commitment to give an interim Iraq government sovereignty next month.

“I told [Mr. Putin] that we would come up with a arrangement that would enable us to help the Iraqi people secure their country so that their country can move toward elections,” Mr. Bush said.

“I told him I would continue to work with countries around the world to build support for the new Iraqi government so that the Iraqi people have a chance to live in a free and just society, just like we do,” he said.

In front of reporters and photographers in the Rose Garden yesterday, Mr. Bush praised Mr. Rasmussen for his commitment to the 30-nation coalition securing post-war Iraq, and reiterated the June 30 deadline for handover of power is solid — a promise that has been greeted by skepticism in European capitals.

“I told the prime minister that our government and our coalition will transfer full sovereignty, complete and full sovereignty, to an Iraqi government that will be picked by Mr. Brahimi of the United Nations,” Mr. Bush said.

Later, Mr. Rasmussen told reporters that his country’s commitment of 500 troops will ultimately be determined by Denmark’s parliament, but added he feels “quite confident” there will not be a sudden reversal of policy.

The president has embraced the idea of allowing Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian and career U.N. diplomat, to organize a temporary ruling apparatus until full Iraqi elections that are planned for next year.

The Iraqi Governing Council yesterday picked Iyad Allawi, a former member of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party who worked unsuccessfully with the CIA to topple him, as Iraq’s interim prime minister.

Mr. Rasmussen, like many other world leaders who have met with Mr. Bush in recent weeks, has insisted that the United States ratchet down its control over Iraq after June 30 by handing over full sovereignty to the interim government.

“He said, ‘Do you mean full sovereignty?’” Mr. Bush said, recounting his Oval Office meeting with Mr. Rasmussen. “I said, ‘I mean full sovereignty,’” Mr. Bush said.

The United States will keep roughly 135,000 troops in Iraq to fulfill its pledged to maintain security until an Iraqi force can take over. The U.S.-British resolution being hammered out at the United Nations would authorize U.S.-led forces to take “all necessary measures” to maintain security and prevent terrorism.

The president did not take questions after his brief Rose Garden appearance.

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