WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A day before Iraq's election, President George W. Bush will stress on Wednesday why he thinks the United States must stay in Iraq, in the last of a series of speeches intended to persuade more Americans to support his strategy.
Bush wants a smooth election in Iraq on Thursday to counter daily scenes of suicide bombings and the deaths of U.S. troops that have soured the American public on the war.
A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll released on Wednesday found that 59 percent of Americans disapproved of Bush's handling of the Iraq war.
The White House hopes a successful election will be a symbolic blow to the insurgency and boost the confidence of Americans, giving Bush more time to pursue his strategy of training Iraqi security forces before reducing U.S. troop levels.
Bush's speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington will be the fourth in a series that the White House has used to try to explain his administration's strategy against a drumbeat of criticism from Democrats who claim Bush does not have a plan.
"On the eve of a historic election, the president believes it is an important time to take stock of where we are in Iraq, why we are there, why it is important, what the stakes are and why we will achieve victory," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Rice met on Monday with a group of Senate Republicans to talk about the Iraq strategy.
The message the senators emerged with was that it would take time to form a permanent Iraqi government once the parliamentary election is held. Bush is likely to repeat that in his speech.
Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the final Iraqi government might not be completed until April.
"The briefers cautioned that given the multiplicity of parties and interests, solidifying a parliamentary government will not be instantaneous," he said. "They indicated that under some scenarios, the selection of ministers might not be finalized until April."
Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters the "evolution of a new government ... could take some period of time. And that's the period of time in which we've all got to remain steadfast to support them, to get that government together as quickly as possible."
(Additional reporting by Vicki Allen)
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