President Bush says an Iraqi military offensive to stop violence around the capital, Baghdad, is a positive step that shows the country is moving closer to handling more of its own security. Mr. Bush is dismissing allegations by Amnesty International that U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners has given other nations license to violate &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/mailbox/22/101/399/15162_cuba.html ' target=_blank>human rights with impunity.
President Bush says he is heartened to see Iraq's government committing 40,000 soldiers and police to an anti-insurgency operation around Baghdad.
In a Rose Garden news conference, Mr. Bush called it a sign that Iraqi leaders understand that it is ultimately their own responsibility to stop an insurgency which the president says fears democracy.
"What you are seeing is a group of frustrated and desperate people who kill innocent life, and obviously we mourn the loss of every life," he said. "But I believe the Iraqi government is going to be plenty capable of dealing with them, and our job is to help train them so they can."
Mr. Bush says it is important for Americans to understand that a democratic Iraq at the heart of the Middle East is an essential part in securing the United States and promoting peace in the long run, tells VOA News.
On another foreign policy issue, Bush said he expressed concerns with Russian President Vladimir Putin about legal proceedings against former oil tycoon &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/ 18/88/351/15367_khodorkovsky.html ' target=_blank>Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Once the richest man in Russia, Khodorkovsky was convicted Tuesday of fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to nine years in prison following a trial widely denounced as politically motivated.
Bush did not comment directly on the verdict, but said, "it looked like he had been judged guilty prior to having a fair trial."
The president said he has questioned whether the case shows a backsliding away from the rule of law and democracy in Russia and said it will "be interesting to see" how Khodorkovsky's expected appeal is handled by the government.
"Here, you're innocent until proven guilty and it appeared to us, at least people in my administration, that it looked like he had been ajudged guilty prior to having a fair trial," Bush said. "We're watching the ongoing case."
NATO's Boeing P-8 Poseidon was circling above the easternmost point of Romania at the time of the missile strike on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol