Confident Bush predicts GOP will hold Congress

President Bush says he believes Republicans will retain control of the Congress after the November elections, even as members of his own party predict a loss of some seats.

Dismissing the possibility the top House Democrat, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, could rise to House speaker if the GOP lost its majority, the president said, “That’s not going to happen.”

Democrats need to gain six seats in the Senate and 15 in the House to gain control.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor, Bush was commenting on how he planned to resurrect his push to change Social Security next year when he was reminded that some polls show Democrats were likely to win control of at least the House.

“I just don’t believe it,” the president told Paul Gigot, according to an account published Saturday.

“I believe the Republicans will end up being _ running the House and the Senate,” the president was quoted as saying in the interview Thursday aboard Air Force One.

Bush said his confidence is based on his belief that voters will be convinced that Republicans were right to cut taxes to stimulate the economy, and that the GOP has a better understanding about the need to nurture Iraq’s fragile government and spread democracy.

On Iraq, Bush said dividing Iraq three separate regions _ Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni _ with a central government in Baghdad would be a mistake. Bush said Iraqis did not vote for partition when they approved a new constitution and government.

On Iran, Bush said he personally signed off on the recent U.S. visit by former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, saying he wants to learn more how the Tehran government works. The visit drew protests from some conservatives who say Khatami oversaw development of the nuclear weapons development Bush is now working to halt.

“My hope is that diplomacy will work in convincing the Iranians to give up their nuclear weapons ambitions, and in order for diplomacy to work, it’s important to hear voices other than (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad’s,” Bush said referring to Iran’s current president.

As for his goal of spreading democracy in the Middle East, Bush said he had not given up on seeking reforms in Egypt. He said he was disappointed that Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour had been convicted on forgery charges. Nour alleges that the government, run by President Hosni Mubarak, trumped up the charges to eliminate him from politics.

“There’s an impressive group of younger Egyptians _ the trade minister and some of the economic people _ that understand the promise and the difficulties of democracy,” he said.

© 2006 The Associated Press