WASHINGTON – The United States will not cut and run in Iraq despite the accelerated timetable for ending the military occupation and handing back political power to the Iraqis, President Bush said in an interview that aired Sunday in Great Britain.
In the interview taped last week with David Frost for PBS-BBC's "Breakfast With David Frost," the U.S. president also said the recent attacks on coalition forces in Iraq are "nothing more than a power grab, primarily by supporters of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein."
Bush leaves Tuesday for a visit to the United Kingdom, one in which he is expected to be greeted by tens of thousands of protesters of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Bush said he is not worried about the protesters and appreciates their freedom of speech -- one of the reasons why the U.S.-led coalition is in Iraq.
"Democracy is a beautiful thing," the president has frequently told reporters.
Still, the trip comes at a time when both Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) are slipping in opinion polls because of the ongoing occupation in Iraq. Bush is scheduled to meet with Blair, speak with families of British soldiers killed in Iraq and attend a glittering state dinner at Buckingham Palace.
The president acknowledged that he will be traveling in something of a bubble because of security concerns in the United Kingdom and warnings of a possible Al Qaeda (search) attack.
The president said, however, that despite the risks involved in continuing the occupation in Iraq, U.S. forces will remain there as long as it takes to stabilize the country.
"We understood it was going to be tough. We've been there for seven months, David, which seems like a long time, particularly given the news cycles the way they are," Bush said.
"I'm certainly not complaining about the news cycles. Nevertheless, there's a certain sense of impatience that has now crept into the world and my job is to enable our operators and military to make adjustments necessary to succeed. We've got the same strategy, which is a peaceful Iraq, with a tactic shift, depending on the decisions of the enemy. We're making progess."
But Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle told Fox News Sunday that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating.
"I think it's fair to say that the situation continues to worsen. We've now lost 67 troops this month alone. About 61, I think, have been wounded. The situation continues to deteriorate and I'm very concerned about that," Daschle said.
Two Black Hawk helicopters collided Sunday in Iraq, killing 17 U.S. soldiers. The collision is believed to have been the result of one helicopter veering off course after being struck from the ground.
The president said the continuing violence could be the result of actions by Saddam Hussein. His comments came as another tape purported to be recordings of Saddam was released on Arab television in which he is said to be encouraging more resistance during the holy month of Ramadan.
"We did the Iraqi people a great favor by removing him, and so I wouldn't be surprised that any kind of violence is promoted by him, but I don't know," Bush said.
Former Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg told Fox News he has read the Arabic translation of Saddam's comments and said he thinks the recording is an effort to ramp up activities at the end of Ramadan, which corresponds with the U.S. Thanksgiving.
"I am increasingly convinced that this tape was not coincidentally timed to, in effect, call for the increase of attacks around both Thanksgivings as a way of sending a clear message that as long as he is around, Iraqis, whom he is more or less inspiring to attack American troops, should accelerate those attacks," Ginsberg said.
U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer told Fox News Sunday that the fighters attacking U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq are not a major strategic threat, but troops are in for a "tough fight."
He added that the plan is to have a transitional Iraqi government in place by June to replace the Iraqi Governing Council (search). That plan does not mean U.S. troops will leave the country at that time.
"Every indication we have in our discussions with the governing council, with the ministers and all of the polls suggest a very strong desire on the part of the majority of the Iraqi people to have the coalition forces stay until the situation is stabilized. We are in a war against terrorism here and a low-intensity conflict against former Baathists and we want to help the Iraqis win both of those wars," Bremer said.
Bush told the BBC that it's "not a fair comment" to say that the United States was unprepared for winning the peace in Iraq. He added that the Iraqi people will not let Taliban-style fundamentalists take control of their country, and they are ready for democracy.
"We think the Iraqi people are plenty capable of running their own country, and we think they want to run their own country," Bush said. "We believe that democracy will take hold in Iraq and we believe a free and democratic Iraq will help change the Middle East."
But Ginsberg said that the United States must achieve two objectives before the June handover of sovereignty to an Iraqi provisional government -- convincing the Iraqi people that the handover will be consistent with their interests and making sure to have a strategy to "quell this guerrilla uprising that is causing so many casualties.
"And frankly ... I don't see a direct correlation between what is happening in Washington today and the efforts to, in effect, stop those attacks against American troops tomorrow," Ginsberg said.
Fox News' Julie Kirtz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.