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Talabani Rejects Iraq Study Group Report


The leaders of the Iraq Study Group are defending their report, following new criticism from Baghdad. At the same time, the Bush administration is stepping up its own review of its Iraq strategy. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson has details.

On the day Iraqi President Jalal Talabani rejected the report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, the chairmen of the 10-member panel went on U.S. television to defend their recommendations.

In interviews with four American television networks, Republican James Baker and Democrat Lee Hamilton, said their proposals present a way forward for Iraq.

Baker, a former secretary of state, told CNN's Late Edition that something must be done.

"We say that a change in the primary mission of our forces, an enhanced and more vigorous diplomatic offensive, and conditionality by way of our aid to the Iraqi government can make a difference," said James Baker. "It can help us succeed."

He spoke just hours after the Iraqi president - an ethnic Kurd - called the commission's report unfair and unjust. Mr. Talabani said the recommendations are an insult to the Iraqi people.

Hamilton, a former congressman who once chaired the House International Relations Committee, said the reason for such criticism is simple. He told CNN some individual leaders in Iraq are looking at the report and seeing the situation solely through the perspective of their own ethnic groups.

"If that is the perspective that these leaders are going to adopt, then there will be no unified Iraq, and there will be no United States presence there in a pretty short period of time," said Lee Hamilton. "We want a unified Iraq. We are prepared to put a lot of resources into it to get that, but these kinds of statements make it very difficult for us to do it."

President Bush has promised to take the Iraq Study Group's recommendations very seriously. But he has also stressed that the administration is conducting its own policy reviews at the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House National Security Council, and all will be given equal weight.

On the CBS television program Face the Nation, Baker noted that his panel of foreign policy experts is the only bipartisan entity to put a list of recommendations on the president's desk.

"I think the situation is such that politics as usual is not going to come up with the answer," he said. "There has to be a unity of the American people and a unity of the country behind an approach, if it is going to work."

The president will meet with his foreign policy team at the State Department on Monday. Before the week is out, he will also hold consultations with officials at the Pentagon and military commanders in Iraq. Aides say he plans to deliver a speech to the American people on possible changes in U. S. strategy before Christmas.

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