Bush warns of more violence in Iraq

U.S. President George W. Bush said insurgents in Iraq were trying to ignite a civil war by escalating violence and warned there will be more "chaos and carnage in the days and months to come."

Even on a particularly grim day, when four Iraqi bodies were found Monday hanging from utility towers and Iraqis coped with the deaths of at least 58 people the day before when car bombings and mortar rounds plagued Baghdad's Sadr City slum, the president said progress was being made and he laid out a timetable.

"As more capable Iraqi police and soldiers come on line, they will assume responsibility for more territory, with the goal of having the Iraqis control more territory than the coalition by the end of 2006," the president said in the first of a series of speeches to mark the third anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led war.

There was relative peace in Iraq on Monday, even though bomb blasts and shootings in Baghdad and north of the capital killed at least 15. It was the second time in less than three weeks that Iraqis stood at the precipice of civil war and pulled back.

Bush highlighted improvements in the Iraqi security forces and repeated his promise that U.S. troops will stand down as Iraqi forces are able to defend the country.

Democrats charged that Bush was relying on the same rhetoric to defend policies that Americans oppose instead of developing a real strategy for victory in Iraq. Both sides of the political debate have their eye on congressional elections in eight months, when all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and 33 seats in the Senate are at stake.

"Rather than leading a White House public relations blitz, the president should lead by pulling the factions together right away in a summit to develop a unified plan for Iraq's future," said Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Bush urged patience among Americans and coalition allies as Iraqis work to form a new government. He said the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra "was a clear attempt to ignite a civil war,"reports the AP.

I.L.