The Associated Pres
LOUISVILLE - First lady Laura Bush on Tuesday expressed sympathy for the families of soldiers killed in Iraq, but said the United States must remain steadfast in defending the Iraqi people.
Mrs. Bush was here to raise cash for her husband's re-election campaign and to recognize 31 Kentucky cities that have been added to her "Preserve America" initiative, which supports community efforts to maintain historic and cultural sites.
While taking questions from reporters, Mrs. Bush said she realized that Kentuckians had been among the casualties in Iraq.
"This is very difficult, we don't know what hazards we face in the future," she said. "But we do know how important it is to stay the course."
Mrs. Bush said the U.S. has no choice and must remain in Iraq to bring stability there.
"We have to stay with the Iraqi people," she said. "We have to stay on their side against terror and against violence.
"And it's not something we can put off for another time. It's just a sad fact of life right now in the United States."
She praised U.S. soldiers and their families for their courage during these times of "very high anxiety and fear."
Asked what she would say to the mothers of soldiers killed in Iraq, she replied, "They have my prayers, they have my deepest sympathy and they have my respect."
Mrs. Bush also attended a $1,000-per-plate luncheon at the home of Owsley Brown Frazier in suburban Louisville.
Kentucky now has 32 cities designated for the "Preserve America" program, more than any other state, said David Morgan, executive director of the Kentucky Heritage Council and the state historic preservation officer. So far, 65 communities are part of the Preserve America program.
"It really shows how important preservation is in Kentucky," he said.
Among the cities are Newport, Covington, Fort Thomas and Erlanger.
Versailles, in Kentucky's bluegrass region, was among the first eight communities around the country to win the designation.
The designation can help communities in seeking historic preservation grants from the federal government, Morgan said.
The president's proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 includes $10 million for "Preserve America" communities.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Bush's visit continued a trend in which Kentucky has been a popular destination for the Bush White House. Bush carried Kentucky by 15 points over Al Gore in 2000.
The president visited Louisville in early February to tout his economic plan. He traveled to Fort Campbell along the Tennessee border last month to thank soldiers who had served in the Iraqi war.
Vice President Dick Cheney was in Northern Kentucky last month campaigning for Sen. Jim Bunning. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice spoke in Louisville last month.
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