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Bush, Blair Discuss Iraq Study Group Report


One day after the release of a much-anticipated report on Iraq, President Bush discussed its contents with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. We have details from VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson.

The report issued by the Iraq Study Group says conditions are grave and deteriorating, and a major change of strategy is warranted.

President Bush says he agrees with the assessment of the situation in Iraq. "It is bad," he said.

"And, I have made it abundantly clear how tough it is," Mr. Bush said. "I still believe we are going to succeed. I believe we will prevail."

Speaking at a news conference with Prime Minister Blair, the president said he welcomes all the advice he is getting on Iraq, and says the report of the 10-member commission of foreign policy experts is the first set of recommendations to land on his desk.

Mr. Bush praised the spirit of the commission, saying it proves that people from various points on the political spectrum can come together to address a serious problem. But he made clear, he intends to pick and chose from the recommendations put forward by the panel.

"I thought the report did a good job of showing what is possible," Mr. Bush said. "The Congress is not going to accept every recommendation in the report, and neither will the administration. But there are a lot of very important things in the report that we ought to seriously consider."

The president was asked about the commission's call for a drawdown of U.S. troops by 2008, and said he believes the members of the panel agree that any withdrawals should be tied to conditions on the ground.

He also made clear he could not accept the recommendation for direct U.S. engagement with Iraq's neighbors, Syria and Iran.

The president said once again that Iran must first suspend uranium enrichment, and added, both Syria and Iran must show they are serious about wanting to improve the security situation in Iraq.

"If people come to the table to discuss Iraq, they must come understanding their responsibilities to not fund terrorists, to help this young democracy survive, to help with the economics of the country," he said.

Prime Minister Blair said support for the Iraqi government, particularly in the region, is crucial to its success. He said some extremists are getting help from Iraq's neighbors.

"Now, the very reason we have problems in parts of Iraq, and we know this very well down in the south of Iraq, is that Iran, for example, has been doing that. It has been basically financing and supporting terrorism," he said.

Mr. Blair said it is difficult to overstate just how tough the situation is in Iraq. But he noted that the one thing the Iraq Study Group did not call for is an immediate, unconditional withdrawal, and he said everyone wants to find a solution to let democracy take firm root in Iraq and bring the violence to an end.

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