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Bush to Host Iraq Strategy Talks


President Bush has called his top advisors to his Camp David retreat for a strategy session Monday on Iraq. Iraqi leaders will join the discussions by teleconference on Tuesday.

The talks will take place in seclusion in the mountains outside Washington.

President Bush says he wants to sit down in private and discuss - what he calls - the way forward in Iraq.

The two days of meetings at Camp David were announced last Thursday, following the killing of Abu Musab al-Zaqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

But White House officials stress the sessions were planned long before the Jordanian-born terrorist was killed in an air strike, and are tied to the naming of the final key members of the Iraqi Cabinet, announced on the same day as Zarqawi's death.

The first day of talks at Camp David will involve the president's top civilian and military advisers, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, will join the discussions from Baghdad on a video link, as will the top U.S. commander in the field, General George Casey.

During an appearance Sunday morning on the CBS television program, Face the Nation, General Casey would not say if he would present the meeting with a plan to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq. But he did say troop reductions are possible over time.

"I think, as long as the Iraqi security forces continue to progress, and as long as this national unity government continues to operate that way and move the country forward, I think, we are going to be able to see continued gradual reductions of coalition forces over the coming months and into next year," said General Casey.

On Tuesday, the Camp David talks will expand. The Iraqi ambassador to the United States will join the discussions in person, with top ministers of the new government participating by video conference.

Iraq's national security adviser says there will be a full agenda. Nowaffak al-Rubaie told CNN's Late Edition program that there are many long-term issues to deal with.

"We need to work out what sort of financial help we need for next year, what sort of training we need, what the level of troops is going to be next year in Iraq, and the number of multi-national forces," said Nowaffak al-Rubaie.

When asked about prospects for a withdrawal, the Iraqi official predicted the overwhelming majority of the multi-national troops will be out by the middle of 2008. That is in line with a prediction made earlier by the new Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

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