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Bush Talks With Iraqi PM in Jordan Delayed


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki canceled Wednesday's planned meeting with U.S. President George Bush in Jordan, where the two had been expected to discuss ways to halt the spiraling violence in Iraq. Shortly after Mr. Bush arrived, he went into talks with Jordan's King Abdullah, who had met with the Iraqi prime minister earlier in the day. VOA's Scott Stearns, who is traveling with the president, has this report from Amman.

President Bush was to have met with the Iraqi Prime Minister and King Abdullah before dinner at the Raghadan Palace.

But Prime Minister Maliki met with the king earlier in the day, so President Bush had one-on-one talks with the king before they were joined by Jordanian and American officials for dinner.

White House officials say President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki will meet for breakfast Thursday before taking questions from reporters.

White House Councilor Dan Bartlett says the schedule change is in no way related to the publication of a classified White House memo that raises doubts about the Iraqi leader.

The New York Times says the November 8 memo from U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley expresses serious concerns about the prime minister's capacity to control sectarian violence.

Reacting to the newspaper report, senior White House officials say President Bush is convinced of the prime minister's determination to deal with the fundamental challenges in Iraq, namely security, the economy, political reconciliation and regional diplomacy.

While they say Mr. Bush was not pleased the memo was leaked, many of the questions it raises have already been discussed publicly. U.S. officials say much of the action the memo recommends is already taking place.

For example, they say Prime Minister Maliki is moving against those in the Interior Ministry and police force who abet sectarian violence. He has also backed renewing the United Nations mandate for the multi-national force in Iraq.

President Bush is under increasing political pressure at home to show greater progress in Iraq, especially following his political party's losses in both houses of Congress in this month's elections.

Much of that campaigning focused on the war in Iraq, and some opposition leaders from the Democratic Party are calling for a reduction of U.S. troops levels there.

Speaking before his talks in Jordan, President Bush said that is a decision for military commanders in the field, not politicians in Washington.

"We'll continue to be flexible, and we'll make the changes necessary to succeed," he said. "But there's one thing I'm not going to do. I am not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete."

As he considers changes to American policy in Iraq, Mr. Bush says he is looking forward to hearing from a bipartisan panel of former U.S. officials studying the issue. Among their recommendations is likely to be wider consultation with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria.

Asked if he would consider direct talks with those nations, who Mr. Bush says are trying to destabilize the democratically-elected government in Lebanon, the president said Iraq is a sovereign state free to pursue its own foreign policy.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was in Tehran this week for meetings with his counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Ayatollah blamed the violence in Iraq on the United States and its allies, but says Iran is ready to help restore security in Iraq if the government in Baghdad asks.

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