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Bush Says He Looks Forward to Iraq Study Group Report


President Bush has met with members of a special independent panel created by Congress to assess U.S. policy on Iraq and draft recommendations. The bipartisan commission hopes to present a list of proposals by the end of the year.

The work of the Iraq Study Group has taken on added importance, following last week's congressional election in the United States.

Democrats won control of both the House and Senate after a campaign fueled, in large part, by public dissatisfaction with the war. They are calling for a change in policy, and the White House has said it is willing to look at various options.

Both sides are looking to the Iraq Study Group to come up with a list of proposals that could provide a path to consensus. The panel is led by a Republican, former Secretary of State James Baker, and a Democrat, former Congressman Lee Hamilton.

Members of the group came to the White House early Monday for what was billed as a conversation with President Bush. Later, Mr. Bush told reporters it was a good discussion. But he made clear, he was not told about any specific recommendations the group might make.

"I am not going to prejudge the Baker commission's report," said President Bush. "I was pleased to meet with them. I was impressed by the quality of the - of their membership. I was impressed by the questions they asked. They are - they want us to succeed in Iraq, just like I want to succeed."

The president said he looks forward to getting the report, and to working with Democrats to meet - what he called - common objectives. He did not refer directly to demands from some on Capitol Hill for a concrete plan to start pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, but he made clear security conditions in Iraq must drive decisions on troop levels.

"I believe it is very important, though, for people making suggestions to recognize that the best military options depend upon the conditions on the ground," he said.

Members of the Iraq Study Group are meeting with a broad range of U.S. officials this week both civilian and military. Commission members will also meet with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, and on Tuesday they will speak by teleconference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

U.S. commanders in Iraq will speak with the panel by videoconference as well.

The head of the U.S. Central Command, General John Abizaid, is currently visiting Iraq where he met Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. An Iraqi government statement said Abizaid reaffirmed President Bush's commitment to success in Iraq. The statement said they also discussed the effect neighboring countries are having on the situation in Iraq an apparent reference to Iran and Syria.

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