Bush breaks poll fund-raising tour to talk about Iraq

Las Vegas: Sandwiching a war speech in between Republican fundraisers, President George W. Bush is making clear that his priority is to keep Iraq secure, not just to get troops home.

His Iraq update here scheduled for later yesterday was tucked into an agenda of political events across four states. The private affairs will raise $4.7 million (Dh17 million) for his party by week’s end.

The president is on a three-day tour with dual purposes: to raise money for Republican candidates and to plug some themes from his modestly aimed State of the Union address. The theme of the day: war and the threats to the United States. In California on Wednesday, Bush promoted his trade agenda and headlined fundraisers in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The rest of his travels involve states that he carried in the 2000 and 2004 elections, Nevada, Colorado and Missouri.

Bush’s Iraq theme is that his military build-up there a year ago – unpopular as it was – succeeded by reducing violence and giving Iraqi politicians some room to work.

Yet he won’t commit to more US troop withdrawals, and may even slow or stop the ones under way to preserve the gains in security. He is asking the country, again, for patience.

In comments here, Bush will tell the nation that it cannot afford to turn its back on Iraq now, echoing a theme of his State of the Union address on Monday. He also will prod Congress again to permanently extend a law allowing the government more freedom to eavesdrop on suspected terrorists.

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