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Bush, Maliki Meeting Postponed


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. President George Bush put off their meeting in Jordan until Thursday. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Bush Administration officials say the change in the scheduled meeting had nothing to do with the leaking of a classified White House memo raising questions about the Iraqi prime minister's ability to deal with sectarian violence.

President Bush was to have met with the Iraqi prime minister and Jordan's King Abdullah Wednesday before dinner at Amman's Raghadan Palace.

But White House officials say the Jordanian and Iraqi leaders decided to forgo the trilateral meeting after the prime minister met with King Abdullah earlier in the day.

Iraqi and Jordanian officials notified the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalizad, about the schedule change, and he then telephoned President Bush on Air Force One en route from the NATO summit in Latvia.

Mr. Bush, however, met privately with King Abdullah to discuss Syria's involvement in Lebanon and ways to strengthen the Palestinian Authority.

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

In a report published Wednesday, 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 the officials 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 multinational force mandate.

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," said Mr. Bush. "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."

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

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