Bush To Meet With Iraqi PM As Gloomy Memo Surfaces - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/29/06-RIGA, Latvia

Bush To Meet With Iraqi PM As Gloomy Memo Surfaces

Firefighters spray a vehicle after a blast in Baghdad. Firefighters spray a vehicle after a blast in Baghdad.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, from left, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and President Bush confer in Latvia Wednesday. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, from left, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and President Bush confer in Latvia Wednesday.

 Reports circulated Wednesday that one of President Bush's top advisers has serious doubts about the Iraqi prime minister's ability to stem the violence in his country, as President Bush headed for a meeting with embattled Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The White House has avoided saying that Bush will be pressuring al-Maliki at the meeting in Amman, Jordan, to do more to stop the bloodshed.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley says that the Iraqi prime minister pushes himself and that Bush will be listening to al-Maliki's ideas, not imposing plans on him.

But in a classified November 8 memo following his October 30 trip to Baghdad, Hadley expressed serious doubts about whether al-Maliki had the capacity to control the sectarian violence in Iraq, and recommended steps to strengthen the Iraqi leader's position, The New York Times reported in Wednesday editions.

"The reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action," the story quoted the memo as saying.

A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the White House would not dispute the accuracy of quoted material in the story.

The president, under pressure on both sides of the Atlantic to find a new blueprint for the war, is holding a hastily arranged two-day summit with al-Maliki to hear how he plans to mend his nation's bitter Sunni-Shia divide, and how they can work together to chart a stable, peaceful future for the fragile government.

Bush stood in silence at a NATO summit in this Baltic capital Wednesday morning, listening to a bugler play taps in honor of those fallen in service to the alliance, most recently in Afghanistan.

A few hours later, Bush was scheduled to be at Raghadan Palace, high on a hill in the Jordanian capital, grappling with the problems in Iraq, where U.S. involvement now has lasted longer than America's participation in World War II.

"We will discuss the situation on the ground in his country, our ongoing efforts to transfer more responsibility to the Iraqi security forces, and the responsibility of other nations in the region to support the security and stability of Iraq," Bush said Tuesday at the NATO summit.

"We'll continue to be flexible, and we'll make the changes necessary to succeed. But there's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete."

Jordan's King Abdullah, who is hosting the meetings, has warned that unless bold steps are taken quickly, the new year could dawn with three civil wars in the Mideast -- in Lebanon, between the Palestinians and Israelis and in Iraq. He says the fighting in Iraq amounts to a civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites, but Bush chooses to characterize it differently.

"No question it's tough," Bush said Tuesday. "There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal."

His meeting with al-Maliki is part of a new flurry of diplomacy the Bush administration has undertaken across the Middle East. Hadley's memo suggests that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hold a meeting for Iraq and its neighbors in the region early next month.

Rice to meet with Palestinian leaders

After the Bush-al-Maliki summit, Rice is staying behind in the region for talks with Palestinian and possibly Israeli leaders, who agreed last weekend on a cease-fire to end five months of fighting in Gaza.

Last weekend, Vice President Dick Cheney took a brief trip to consult with Saudi Arabia about recent Mideast developments.

Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, the president is grappling with other flash points that are testing his foreign policy decisions.

Iran and Syria are flexing their muscles in the Middle East. Tehran has refused to give up its nuclear programs. The cease-fire in Gaza is fragile. The assassination of an anti-Syrian leader in Lebanon last week undermined the nation's young, Western-backed government.

Iraqi officials say the United States wants other Sunni governments in the area, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, to persuade moderate Sunnis in Iraq to line up with al-Maliki. That would give him political clout he needs to challenge radical militias trying to undermine his authority.

Back in Washington, the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel created to recommend a new way forward in Iraq, was meeting for a third day. The independent panel, set to issue a report next month, did not reach a consensus Tuesday on how many or how long U.S. troops should remain in Iraq, forcing the group to return for a third day of debate.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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