US President George W. Bush said Friday that the fight in Iraq has been longer and more costly than expected, but he defended the US-led invasion, saying that the world could not risk leaving Saddam Hussein's power unchecked. In a speech later Friday about his policies in the Middle East, Bush said he sees progress toward finding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reaffirmed the US position that Iran should not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. Bush, in a sweeping overview outlining challenges in the Mideast, acknowledged his critics who said his administration tried to link the war in Iraq to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. While it's true that Saddam Hussein was not connected to the attacks, Bush said the decision to oust him cannot be viewed in isolation from them. "In a world where terrorists armed with box-cutters had just killed nearly 3,000 people, America had to decide whether we could tolerate a sworn enemy that acted belligerently, that supported terror and that intelligence agencies around the world believed had weapons of mass destruction," Bush said, referring to intelligence reports that later proved false.