President Bush says he believes the United States can still win the war in Iraq, despite a lack of progress in key areas.
Speaking after the release of a congressionally-mandated report on Iraq Thursday, Mr. Bush said there has been progress on security in Iraq and that this will pave the way for progress on the political front there.
The interim report shows satisfactory progress on eight of 18 benchmarks, unsatisfactory results in another eight areas and mixed results in two. It says there has been little progress on key political issues, such as sharing oil revenues and political reconciliation.
Opposition to the president's strategy to send more forces to Iraq on a temporary basis now includes a growing number of members of his own Republican Party.
Mr. Bush stressed that the report is preliminary and that he will wait until a September assessment to see if his strategy needs to be reconsidered.
The president also continued to stress the risks of withdrawing U.S. troops before stability has been achieved, saying it would be dangerous for Iraq, the region and the United States. He specifically warned that Iraq would suffer mass killings on "a horrific scale" .
He also tried to frame the debate not on whether to withdraw troops - he says he wants to bring them home as well - but whether the United States can succeed in bringing stability.
President Bush announced he is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the Middle East in August. He said they will re-emphasize the U.S. commitment to the international diplomatic agreement to help stabilize Iraq, reached at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in May.
Rice had been scheduled to visit the Middle East next week to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace. U.S. media quote State Department officials as saying that trip has been postponed