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Bush applauds pact among Iraqi leaders but says it is not enough

Bush applauds pact among Iraqi leaders but says it is not enough

President George W. Bush said an agreement among leading Iraqi politicians is a promising sign of political progress, but that the pact on some issues that have blocked national reconciliation is not enough.
"The agreement begins to establish new power-sharing agreements, commits to supporting bottom-up security and political initiatives, and advances agreement among Iraq's leadership on several key legislative benchmarks," Bush said in a brief statement upon arriving in Albuquerque on Monday.
Bush had called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other top leaders from Air Force One before he came to New Mexico for a political fundraising reception. Sunday's political summit meeting brought al-Maliki together with fellow Shiite Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the head of the northern autonomous Kurdish region Massoud Barzani and President Jalal Talabani, who is also a Kurd.
"I reminded them, and they understand, much more needs to be done," Bush said. He added that it will be up to the Iraqi parliament to make the new agreements law when the legislature reconvenes in early September.
Bush's envoy in Baghdad, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, attended Sunday's meeting. It came as a Sept. 15 deadline looms for a U.S. assessment of the war and Bush's decision whether to maintain the increase in U.S. troops he ordered earlier this year, or begin bringing Americans home.
In the next week, Bush and his senior advisers are likely to hear the initial thinking from Crocker and the top U.S. general in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, a senior administration official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a schedule still in flux.
Crocker and Petraeus are expected to testify to Congress as soon as Sept. 10 on the military and political landscape in Iraq more than four years after the start of the war, officials said. The two will give two days of testimony before their report measuring Iraq's progress toward meeting U.S. targets for military and political development is presented to Congress.
The pair have already telegraphed many of their conclusions. They are expected to answer whether the tactical changes Bush ordered this year _ adding 30,000 troops to help calm Baghdad _ have succeeded or will have lasting effect to allow political progress. There are now more than 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq; at least 3,728 military members have died since 2003.
Both Bush and Iraq's leaders are under increasing pressure to show progress amid slow deliberations and political squabbling in Baghdad and sinking support for the war among Americans and in Congress.
"These leaders ... recognize the true and meaningful reconciliation that needs to take place," Bush said. "They recognize this is a process. Yesterday's agreement reflects their commitment to work together for the benefit of all Iraqis to further the process."
The Iraqi leaders said on Sunday that they agreed on some issues that the U.S. has set as benchmarks for progress, among them holding provincial elections, releasing prisoners held without charge and changing the law preventing many former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from holding government jobs and elected office.
But no details were released and committees must iron out final versions of legislation to be presented to the Iraqi parliament. Iraqi officials have announced similar deals in the past, only to have them fall apart.
The deal also was not enough to convince the main Sunni Arab political bloc to take back their posts in government which they abandoned this month over differences with al-Maliki.
In a step toward implementing the deal, U.S. and Iraqi officials announced that coalition forces would increase the number of detainees released during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan which begins next month.
Bush's statement came after a week of tense exchanges between Washington and Baghdad surrounding the struggles of al-Maliki's government, calls by two key senators for al-Maliki to step down and what was widely construed as a less-than-enthusiastic Bush statement in reaction to al-Maliki's problems.
The Bush White House later put out a statement seeking to play down reports of administration disenchantment with al-Maliki, saying the president continues to support him.
Bush is delivering a speech Tuesday about Iraq before the American Legion convention in Reno, Nevada, his second attempt in a week to buttress support for the war.
Last week, he likened today's fight against extremism in Iraq to past conflicts in Japan, Korea and Vietnam. On Tuesday, he plans to discuss the implications of the fight in Iraq for the broader Middle East, a strategic crossroads that has largely missed the democratic and economic advances seen in other parts of the world and is thus vulnerable to the rise of terrorism, said a senior administration official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the president.
Bush was to argue that Iraq is at the heart of both Sunni Muslim and Shia Muslim extremism, the former dominated by al-Qaida and the latter by Iran, the official said.
The president was urging patience from Congress, given security gains and the early signs of some political progress.
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Anne Gearan reported from Washington.


Updated : 2021-08-01 05:10 GMT+08:00