Fight for Basra a "defining moment" in Iraq's future, Bush says
( dpa ) - The Iraqi offensive against Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra is a "defining moment" in the country's future, US President George W Bush said Friday.
"Any government that presumes to represent a majority of people must confront criminal elements or people who think they can live outside the law," Bush said after meeting with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
"This is a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq," Bush said. "There have been other defining moments up to now, but this is a defining moment, as well."
Bush expressed no concern over Rudd's plan to follow through on a campaign pledge and withdraw Australia's 550 troops from Iraq this summer, noting the United States has also withdrawn troops on a "return on success" basis.
"The prime minister kept a campaign commitment which I appreciate," Bush said. "I always like to be in the presence of somebody who does what he says he's going to do."
Rudd ousted a close ally of Bush, John Howard, in November elections. Rudd, however, assured Bush that Australia remains committed to the fight in Afghanistan and will keep troops in a combat role.
"We are in Afghanistan for the long haul," Rudd said. "It's a tough fight and we intend to be there."