Bush gives no hint of Iraq course

Updated: 2006-12-13 09:05

The report rejected calls for a quick withdrawal of troops but suggested that most US combat forces might be withdrawn by early 2008 - and that the US mission should be changed from combat to training and support of Iraqi units. It also called for an energetic effort to seek a diplomatic solution to Iraq's violence by engaging its neighbors, including Iran and Syria.

Bush has opposed direct talks with Iran until it halts uranium enrichment, preferring to let the Iraqis have direct talks with Tehran.

Most Americans who are familiar with the Iraq Study Group report support major recommendations by the bipartisan panel, according to a Pew Research Center poll, out Tuesday. But they also doubt Bush will follow the group's advice.

As for Bush's delayed speech, Snow was asked whether there were still active internal debates under way.

"People are going to have disagreements, and there may be some areas on which there are still going to be debates, but most have kind of been ironed out," the spokesman said.

Al-Hashemi was the second Iraqi politician Bush has met with in two weeks who has expressed discontent over al-Maliki's failure to quell raging violence. Last week, Bush spoke in the Oval Office with Shiite powerbroker Abdul-Ariz al-Hakim, who is among the Iraqi politicians talking about forming a new governing alliance.

"I can assure you there is a great and real chance to get out of this present dilemma," al-Hashemi said as he and Bush met briefly with reporters. "It is a hard time that the Iraqis face in time being, but there is a light in the corridor. There is a chance, but we need a good will and a strong determination."

In Baghdad, the embattled prime minister said there was no alternative to his "national unity" government. Al-Maliki said moves to set up a new government should not be viewed as an attempt to topple his coalition, although he appeared to suggest that was the aim.

"We are opposed to anyone who moves in that framework," al-Maliki said.

"The government belongs to the Iraqi people, it is they who chose it and it belongs to the political groups that are partners in it," he said.


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