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Cheney urges 'patient effort' in terror fight

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday that the United States must be prepared to fight the war on terrorism for decades to bring peace to Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

''Like other great duties in history, it will require decades of patient effort, and it will be resisted by those whose only hope for power is through the spread of violence," Cheney said. ''As the people of that region experience new hope, progress, and control over their own destiny, we will see the power of freedom to change our world, and a terrible threat will be removed."

Cheney did not specify how long he thinks US troops will have to stay in Iraq. Some military commanders have expressed hope that substantial American troop withdrawals could begin next spring or summer, though they have edged away from such comments in recent days.

Speaking to the Association of the US Army, Cheney joined the chorus of Bush administration officials, including the president, who have tried in recent days to muster more support from an American public that has grown increasingly weary of the war in Iraq. He told the audience, filled with military members, that the only way terrorists would win is if the United States ''lost our nerve and abandoned our mission."

He also echoed Bush administration assertions that Iraqi forces are growing and are increasingly able to take charge. A week ago, the top commander in Iraq had told Congress that the number of Iraqi Army battalions capable of fighting without US help had dropped from three to one.

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