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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 May, 2004, 18:41 GMT 19:41 UK
Bush warns of new Iraq challenges
USS Abraham Lincoln
The USS Lincoln was carefully chosen as a speech venue in 2003
A year after declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq, US President Bush has been defending his comments.

After the worst month for US forces in Iraq, his critics have been focusing on the speech made against a background of a banner saying "mission accomplished".

"Life for the Iraqi people is a world away from the cruelty and corruption of Saddam's regime," Mr Bush said in his weekly radio address.

But he warned of the challenges still to be faced.

"Illegal militias and remnants of the regime, joined by foreign terrorists, are trying to take by force the power they could never gain by the ballot," he said.

"These groups have found little support among the Iraqi people."

Mr Bush also acknowledged that there is likely to be more violence in the run-up to the 30 June handover of sovereignty.

"We will not be intimidated or diverted. On 1 July, and beyond, our reconstruction and military commitment will continue."

'Not in vain'

The BBC's Nick Childs in Washington says Mr Bush made no apologies for last year's remarks but instead he attempted to put the best gloss on the current situation.

Without mentioning the heavy toll suffered in April, the president said that US forces are "sacrificing greatly".

But he told the families of the soldiers who had died that "their loss is not in vain".

"The success of Iraqi democracy would send forth the news, from Damascus to Tehran, that freedom can be the future of every nation."

The BBC's Nick Childs
"Bush said life for the Iraqi people has improved"

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