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White House Says Baghdad Security Is Priority in Talks With Iraqi PM


President Bush is moving more U.S. troops to the Iraqi capital to help improve security there. Mr. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki discussed security in Baghdad during their first White House meeting.

The president says the U.S. strategy in Iraq is to remain on the offensive, including in Baghdad. Calling the violence there still terrible, Mr. Bush says more U.S. troops will be redeployed to Baghdad in the coming weeks in a new effort to bring greater security to the capital. "Coalition and Iraqi forces will secure individual neighborhoods, will ensure the existence of an Iraqi security presence in the neighborhoods and gradually expand the security presence as Iraqi citizens help them root out those who instigate violence. This plan will involve embedding more U.S. Military Police with Iraqi police units to make them more effective," he said.

President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki took questions from reporters following their Oval Office meeting. Speaking through an interpreter, the prime minister said one of the main objectives of the new security strategy is to curb sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims. "The government's responsibility is to protect all Iraqis regardless of their ethnic or religious background. It is important to say we are shedding light on those who are calling for sectarian or religious (violence) because we feel that this is a great danger to Iraq. And, God willing, there will be no civil war in Iraq," he said.

In London Monday, Mr. Maliki confirmed a U.N. report that on average during the past two months nearly 100 Iraqi civilians were killed each day.

The prime minister says he and the president agreed that building security and military institutions in Iraq as quickly as possible is the key to stabilizing the country and defeating terrorism.

Toward that end, President Bush said the United States will equip Iraqi forces with more firepower, improved transport and better protection. "No question the terrorists and extremists are brutal. These are people who just kill innocent people to achieve an objective, which is to destabilize this government," he said.

Mr. Bush says U.S. military commanders tell him the redeployment of troops to Baghdad will better reflect current conditions in Iraq.

In the midst of all the violence in Baghdad, President Bush says, sometimes success elsewhere is obscured. He pointed to the recent transfer of a southern province to full Iraqi control as a sign of progress.

The president says the question now is whether U.S. forces are going to be nimble enough to deal with changing circumstances.

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