Remarks by President Bush and Prime Minister Howard of Australia in Joint Press Availability

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Mr. President , ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to welcome the media to this news conference. I'll say a couple of words, invite the President to speak briefly...

And as you know, I just came from al-Anbar province in Iraq . This is a province that some six months ago, or eight months ago, had been written off by the experts as lost to al Qaeda. The people that presumably had taken over Anbar have sworn allegiance to the very same bunch that caused 19 killers to come and kill nearly 3,000 of our citizens. And the experts had said, well, Anbar is gone; al Qaeda will have the safe haven that they have said they want. By the way, a safe haven for al Qaeda anywhere is dangerous to those of us who believe in democracy and freedom. That's one of the lessons of September the 11th.

The province I saw wasn't lost to the extremists. The place I went had changed dramatically -- fundamentally because the local people took a look at what al Qaeda stands for, and said, we're not interested in death, destruction. We don't want to be associated with people who murder the innocent to achieve their objectives. We want something different for our children. And as a result of our alliance with these folks, we're now hunting down al Qaeda in this province. And the same thing has taken place across Iraq . The security situation is changing. That's the briefing I received from David Petraeus, our general on the ground, General David Petraeus.

He says the security situation is changing so that reconciliation can take place. There are two types of reconciliation, one from the bottom up. I met with sheiks that are tired of the violence. They're reconciling. They're reconciling after decades of tyranny. They're reconciling after having lived under a dictator who divided society in order to be able to sustain his power.

At the national level there is reconciliation, but not nearly as fast as some would like. By the way, people who don't believe we should be in Iraq in the first place, there's no political reconciliation that can take place to justify your opinion. If you don't think Iraq is important, if you don't think it matters what the society looks like there, then there's not enough amount of reconciliation that will cause people to say, great, it's working. If you believe like I believe, that the security of the United States and the peace of the world depend upon a democracy in the Middle East and Iraq , then you can see progress. And I'm seeing it.

Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Is there more work to be done? You bet there is. But the fact that their legislature passed 60 pieces of legislation I thought is illustrative of a government that's beginning to work. It's more than our legislature passed. They got a budget out. We're still working on our budget, Mr. Prime Minister .

Do they need an oil law? You bet they need an oil law. Why? Because it will be part of saying to Sunnis, Shia, and Kurd alike, the oil belongs to the people. It's a way to unify the country. On the other hand, they are distributing revenues from the central government. In Anbar province they have distributed $107 million this year, about $96 million last year. There's only one place they could have gotten the revenue from, the oil resources. So there is distribution taking place, in spite of the fact there's not a law. They got a budgeting process that's funding their military. In other words, there is a functioning government.

Again, I repeat, there's plenty of work to be done. There's more work to be done. But reconciliation is taking place. And it's important, in my judgment, for the security of America, or for the security of Australia , that we hang in there with the Iraqis and help them. If this is an ideological struggle, one way to defeat an ideology of hate is with an ideology of hope. And that is societies based upon liberty. And that's what's happening. And it's historic work, Mr. Prime Minister , and it's important work, and I appreciate the contribution that the Australians have made. You've got a great military, full of decent people. And you ought to be proud of them. And I know the Australian people are.

The same work goes on in Afghanistan . The degree of difficulty is just about the same. After all, this is a society trying to recover from a brutal reign. But it's the same principles involved, and that is to help them have their style democracy flourish. And it's happening in Afghanistan . People who have been to Kabul will tell you it's dramatically different than what it was like when we first liberated Afghanistan .