Bush stays upbeat after visit to Iraq

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The Independent US

President George Bush has tied the fortunes of his embattled party to the war in Iraq, predicting that the government of Nouri al-Maliki would place that country on a new path, and that the Republicans would win the mid-term US elections.

Tired but clearly buoyed by his surprise 30-hour trip to Baghdad, Mr Bush sounded more confident and upbeat than in many months as he sought to shore up support for his Iraq policy, which a majority of Americans now oppose.

In a White House press conference Mr Bush betrayed not an ounce of self-doubt as he tried to convince the public that the war had not been a mistake, and that the Maliki government would lead Iraq into the long-promised era of democracy. Whether he can do so will determine whether Republicans retain control of the House and Senate in November.

The President admitted that it was an illusion to expect "zero violence" in Iraq, and took care not to talk of "a turning point". But, he asserted: "I sense something different happening in Iraq." He rejected demands for an early troop withdrawal, insisting developments on the ground, rather than domestic US pressures would determine how long they stayed.