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Bush urges patience on Iraq

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine -- President Bush, who faces mounting congressional pressure to end the war, yesterday called for patience as US forces conduct stepped-up operations in Iraq.

"We're still at the beginning of this offensive, but we're seeing some hopeful signs," Bush said in his weekly radio address, in which he likened US troops deployed around the globe to the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

"We're engaging the enemy, and killing or capturing hundreds," said Bush, who is losing GOP support for his decision in January to send 30,000 extra troops to Iraq to secure Baghdad and Anbar. Two senior Al Qaeda leaders were killed this week north of Baghdad and US troops are finding arms caches at more than three times the rate of a year ago, Bush said. Despite an upward trend in May, sectarian killings in the Iraqi capital are down from January, he added .

The White House thought it had until September, when military commanders are to give an assessment of Iraq. But most senators now believe troops should start coming home within the next few months, and House Republicans are calling to revive the independent Iraq Study Group to give the nation new options.

"The fight in Iraq has been tough, and it will remain difficult," Bush said. The Fourth of July, will be an opportunity to remember the nation's founders and the more than 3,568 men and women of the US military who have died in the Iraq war, he said.

"Today, a new generation of Americans has stepped forward and volunteered to defend the ideals of our nation's founding ," he said.

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