Bush praises Iraqi elections and hints at US withdrawal

GEORGE BUSH praised the recent elections in the Middle East and Afghanistan yesterday, saying that Sunday's historic vote in Iraq opened "a new phase" in US operations there, that could lead to a reduction in America's military presence there.

In remarks prepared for the first State of the Union address of his second term, Mr Bush said that US troops - currently numbering some 150,000 - would increasingly focus their efforts on training Iraqi security forces to keep the country safe.

The aim was to prepare "more capable Iraqi security forces - forces with skilled officers and an effective command structure." Once that is done, administration officials have repeatedly said that US units would be gradually brought home, though they refuse to give any firm timetable.

In his traditional annual speech to both chambers of Congress, the President developed the lofty themes of his second inaugural last month, vowing a renewed push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and declaring that the only means of halting tyranny and terror "is the force of human freedom."

Clearly buoyed by what are generally seen as surprisingly successful Iraqi elections, following on the heels of similar exercises in the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan, Mr Bush was expected to unveil a new aid package for the Palestinians worth up to $350m (pounds 185m), as a sign of his backing for the new leader Mahmoud Abbas.

But after a first term dominated by the "war on terror" and the invasion of Iraq, the emphasis last night was on his ambitious domestic agenda, topped by the boldest attempt to reform America's social security system in its 70-year history.

In his speech, aides said, Mr Bush would give a more detailed picture of his plan to part-privatise the federal pension and unemployment benefit programme. He is also urging Congress to move on several initiatives, including bills to reform tort law, simplify the tax code and modernise US immigration laws.

But despite the enlarged Republican majorities in both House and Senate that emerged from the November 2004 election, he faces an uphill path on all fronts, especially his contentious bid to overhaul social security.

Democrats are almost to a man against it, and Harry Reid, the party's leader in the Senate, warned the President this week to "face the fact" that social security reform in the shape Mr Bush envisaged did not have a hope of passage.

But many Republicans too have misgivings about the cost of the measure, which could add up to $2 trillion to future budget deficits. Other conservative Republicans strongly oppose the President's immigration plans, which they say amounts to an amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants. In effect, Mr Bush has the next two years to achieve his goals. After the 2006 mid-term elections, he will increasingly assume `lame duck' status, as minds focus on the 2008 Presidential race and the eventual successor.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Environment
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells