(CNSNews.com) - President Bush, speaking at what he called his last press conference of the year, said his message to Saddam Hussein is "good riddance."
He called the capture of Saddam a great moment for the people of Iraq, because it will allow them to "focus with confidence on the task of creating a hopeful and self-governing nation."
There is no hope of Saddam or his loyalists returning to power, Bush said. "The nightmare of the Baathist tyranny is finally over," he said, adding that the work in Iraq remains dangerous and difficult "and will require further sacrifice."
He said the U.S. military will "stay the course" in Iraq, and he refused to put a timetable on when the job may be done.
"A free Iraq will serve the peace and security of America and the world," the president said several times in the course of his press conference.
President Bush said the U.S. will work with the Iraqis to develop a way to try Saddam Hussein for his crimes and he emphasized the need for the trial to withstand international scrutiny. The Iraqis need to be "very much involved" in the process, he said.
President Bush also said his administration is reaching out to Germany and France, encouraging them to work with the U.S. on debt relief for Iraq. "We're constantly reaching out to more nations to get them involved in the process," Bush said.
He mentioned that more than sixty nations are currently working with the U.S.-led coalition.
President Bush said a free and stable Iraq is in the best interests of all nations, including the U.S.
He dismissed a suggestion that his actions regarding Iraq are politically motivated. "My job is to keep America secure," Bush said. "I will never forget the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001...and it can happen again. And therefore I will deal with threats - threats that are emerging and real."
There will be plenty of time for politics in the months ahead, Bush said. He said he looks forward to making his case to the American people when the right time comes.
Before taking reporters' questions, President Bush gave an assessment of the year that's about to end.
"In 2003, we have become a safer, more prosperous and better nation," Bush said. Among his administration's accomplishments, he mentioned the fight against terrorism; the systematic hunt for al Qaeda; the U.S. economy, now "growing at a robust pace";
He also mentioned Medicare reform, homeland security, healthy forests, global AIDS relief, housing assistance, adoption, Amber alerts, and protection of children from partial-birth abortion.
"Members of both political parties can take pride in the important goals which we have met by working together," he said.
In the unfinished business category, President Bush mentioned an energy bill, tort reform, and medical liability reform. "These measures were blocked and they are needed," he said.
He said he looks forward to working with the Congress on those and other issues in 2004.
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