WASHINGTON - President Bush reaches out to allies this week for help in
quelling violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, in a burst of diplomacy from a Baltic
summit of NATO partners to Mideast talks with Iraq's prime minister.
Just back from an eight-day trip
to Asia, Bush was leaving on Monday on another overseas trip as pressure builds
at home for a change in his administration's Iraq strategy amid deepening
tensions and violence in that country.
President Bush and first lady Laura Bush wave as they arrive
on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 25,
The president stops first in Estonia en route to a NATO summit in neighboring
Latvia where a debate over peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan is expected to
Estonia and Latvia have sent troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan and the US
considers the two former Soviet republics important allies.
From Latvia, the president heads to Amman, Jordan, for two days of talks with
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Jordan was deemed a less dangerous setting
for the meeting than Baghdad.
White House aides said the meeting, a late addition to Bush's itinerary, was
part of the president's process of sounding out various parties as he ponders
how to proceed in Iraq.
Iran and Syria are trying to assert influence in stabilizing Iraq without
American involvement, and tensions in the region increased further last week
with the assassination of a Cabinet member in the US-backed democratic
government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora - a killing some have
blamed on Syria. Also, sectarian attacks in Iraq have surged in recent days.
Abdullah said Sunday that tensions in the Middle East go beyond the war in Iraq
and that much of the region soon could become engulfed in violence unless the
central issues are addressed quickly.
"We could possibly imagine going into 2007 and having three civil wars on our
hands," he said on ABC's "This Week," citing conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon and the
decades-long strife between the Palestinians and Israelis.