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Bush: Combat Operations in Iraq are Over - 2003-05-02


President Bush has declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq, but stopped short of declaring an end to the war.

In a televised speech from the deck of the U-S-S Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier off the California coast, Mr. Bush said coalition forces are now engaged in securing and rebuilding Iraq.

Mr. Bush also said before a crowd of cheering troops the military victory in Iraq was a crucial advance in the war on terrorism -- but acknowledged that the war that began on September 11th, 2001 still goes on.

He said by destroying Saddam Hussein's regime, the US-led coalition removed a source of terrorist funding and an ally of al-Qaida, believed to be responsible for the September 11th attacks.

Mr. Bush also said U-S forces continues to hunt down al-Qaida members in such places as Pakistan, the Philippines and the Horn of Africa. He said nearly one-half of al-Qaida's senior operatives have been captured or killed.

But President Bush cautioned that much hard work remains for US forces in Iraq -- such as in the search for leaders of Saddam Hussein's regime and for weapons of mass destruction. He said those leaders will be held accountable for their crimes.

Mr. Bush also said dangerous work remains for US forces in Afghanistan, noting the US-led coalition there will "finish what it has begun."

The president paid tribute to the men and women responsible for America's victory in Iraq. He also thanked the British, Australian and Polish armed forces who were part of the coalition.

Mr. Bush landed on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln Thursday, unprecedented for a US president in office. A Navy plane took him to the aircraft carrier, which is returning to California after participating in the war in Iraq.

He will spend the night on the aircraft carrier but leave by helicopter before the vessel reaches the port of San Diego.

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