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Bush Hosts Iraq Strategy Session


President Bush is holding two days of private talks with his top advisers to discuss - what he calls - "the way forward in Iraq." Leaders of the new Iraqi government will join the discussions Tuesday by videoconference.

The president says the success or failure of democracy in Iraq is in the hands of the new government.

"Success in Iraq will depend upon the capacity of the government in Iraq to provide for its people," said President Bush. "We recognize that."

Mr. Bush spoke on the grounds of his Camp David retreat, surrounded by his leading civilian and military advisers. He said during their first day of discussions they focused on ways to help the fledgling Iraqi government deal with the country's security, economic and energy problems.

"The message to the Iraqi government is that we stand with you, that what you are doing is important," he said.

During a brief question and answer session, the president urged other countries to follow through on their pledges to help Iraq. He made a special appeal to Iraq's neighbors.

"Iraq's neighbors ought to do more to help," said George W. Bush. "We are constantly working with our friends in the neighborhood to encourage them to support this new democracy."

Mr. Bush was also asked about the possibility some coalition troops in Iraq might be pulled out soon. He said that is an assessment General George Casey, the chief military commander in Iraq, will make after consultations with the new Iraqi defense minister.

General Casey took part in Monday's discussions at Camp David via video-link, as did the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. Mr. Bush urged them to pass along his congratulations to the troops who tracked down terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi last week.

When a reporter asked him about Zarqawi's successor, the president offered a quick response.

"I think the successor to Zarqawi is going to be on our list to bring to justice," he said.

On Tuesday, the discussions at Camp David will expand. They will end with a joint videoconference involving members of the Bush cabinet and top ministers in the new Iraqi government.

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