( dpa ) - President George W Bush intends to assure Americans that the long-term prospects for the US economy remain strong in a major speech Monday as he work with Congress on legislation to boost the flagging economy.
"As we meet tonight, our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty," Bush said in excerpts of the State of the Union address released by the White House in advance of the 0200 GMT speech before a joint session of Congress.
"And at kitchen tables across our country, there is concern about our economic future," Bush said. "In the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth."
The US economy has been bogged down by the crisis in the housing market along with an increase in unemployment and high energy prices. The Federal Reserve has predicted that the economy will grow slower in 2008 than in previous years and has begun lowering interest rates to encourage investment.
Bush and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives have agreed on a 150-billion-dollar short-term stimulus package that includes 100 billion dollars in tax rebates and 50 billion dollars in incentives for businesses, but the plan could face difficulties in the Senate, which is seeking to expand the plan.
"To build a prosperous future, we must trust people with their own money and empower them to grow our economy," Bush said.
Bush also urged lawmakers to support free trade to expand the global market for American products, urged them to approve a free trade agreement with Colombia and warned them against adopting protectionist policies for US labour.
"On trade, we must trust American workers to compete with anyone in the world and empower them by opening up new markets overseas," Bush said. "Today, our economic growth increasingly depends on our ability to sell American goods, crops and services all over the world."
Bush was to make his final State of the Union address as the presidential campaign to succeed him was in full swing, hoping to demonstrate to the American people that he remains relevant as he completes his final year in office.
"In this election year, let us show our fellow Americans that we recognize our responsibilities and are determined to meet them," Bush said. "And let us show them that Republicans and Democrats can compete for votes and cooperate for results at the same time."
Even though the economic woes that have sparked worries of a recession appear to be the dominating theme in US politics, Bush reminded Congress of the need to remain committed to achieving success in Iraq and preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The speech comes just more than a year after Bush ordered a large buildup of US troops in Iraq to counter surging sectarian and terrorist violence. The expanded US presence has dramatically reduced the levels of violence in Iraq since it came into full force last summer.
"While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago," Bush said.
Bush warned Iran that the United States will confront the regime if it threatens US troops in the region, a reference to US accusations that Iran has aided militias in Iraq responsible for attacks on US troops and to a dangerous encounter between US and Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf earlier this month.
He urged the Iranian regime to suspend uranium enrichment and join negotiations to end the international dispute over the Islamic state's nuclear activities, and end support for terrorism.
" America will confront those who threaten our troops, we will stand by our allies, and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf," Bush said.
Bush's speech takes place as the UN Security Council begins discussion on a third resolution that would deepen international sanctions on Iran for its failure to meet demands to stop enriching uranium, a process that could be used to build an atomic weapon.
Iran maintains its nuclear work is purely for generating civilian energy. A US intelligence estimate from December said Iran stopped the military aspect of its nuclear programme in 2003, but remains capable of resuming the progress and could have enough weapons-grade nuclear fuel by the end of the next decade.
Bush also reiterated his support for creating an "international clean technology fund" to help combat global warming, an initiative he first proposed at a US-sponsored conference on climate change in September.
He called for the commitment of all countries, including developing ones, to reduce global warming, saying any international agreement should give nobody "a free ride."