No, we won't lose war in Iraq: Bush

Clarifying an earlier statement that U.S. forces are neither winning nor losing in Iraq, President George W. Bush says he believes they will win.

Clarifyingan earlierstatement that U.S. forces areneither winning nor losing in Iraq,President George W. Bushsays he believes they will win.

"By the way, if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't have our troops there," hetold reportersin aWashington news conference described asa 2006 wrap-up before he leaves for his Texas ranch for the holidays.

The president acknowledged that "2006was a difficult year for our troops and the Iraqi people."

Extremistsset outto put Iraq's Muslim sects at each other's throats"and over the course of the year they had success," he said.

"My comments yesterday reflected the fact that we're not succeeding nearly as fast as I wanted … and that conditions are tough in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad," he said.

On Tuesday,Bush quoted the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, as saying, "We're not winning, we're not losing." He calledthat an interesting turn of phrase.

In Wednesday's news conference, he offered nopredictionof what 2007 will be like in Iraq, "except that it's going to require difficult choices and additional sacrifices, because the enemy is merciless and violent."

He said he will "listen to ideas from every quarter" and will change U.S. strategy and tactics to meet realities on the ground, but he wouldn't discuss his thinking until he's ready to announce the new plan.

"Clearly one aspect of this war that has not gone right is the sectarian violence inside Baghdad, a violent reaction by both Sunni and Shia to each other that has caused a lot of of loss of life. … It's a troubling, very troubling aspect of trying to help this Iraqi government succeed," he said.

No second thoughts

He said the most painful part of his presidency has been knowing that American soldiers die as a result of his decisions. His "heart breaks" for their families, he said.

But he acknowledged no second thoughts about launching the war. "No, I haven't questioned whether it was right to take Saddam Hussein out."

Nor did he admit to anythought of pulling out.

"A lot of Americans understand the consequences of retreat. Retreat would embolden radicals. It would hurt the credibility of the United States.

"Retreat from Iraq would dash the hopes of millions who want to be free. Retreat from Iraq would enable the extremists and radicals to more likely be able to have a safe haven from which to plot and plan further attacks."

Although he said the war will require additional sacrifices, he called forno sacrifices on the home front.

"A recent report on retail sales shows a strong beginning to the holiday shopping season across the country,"he told the reporters, "and I encourage you all to go shopping more."