President Bush has put off the announcement of changes in his Iraq policy until sometime in early 2007. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House, the president is continuing to seek input from experts inside and outside the U.S. government.
The president had been expected to deliver a major speech before the end of December laying out a revised strategy for Iraq.
But now he has decided to give the review and recommendation process a bit more time, and has put off any announcements until 2007.
He is putting questions to and seeking advice from a broad range of sources including diplomats, military commanders and former U.S officials. He is also consulting with Iraqi leaders, including the country's vice-president, Tariq al-Hashimi.
After their meeting Tuesday at the White House, Mr. Bush said they talked about steps the United States can take to help the Iraqi government succeed. The president did not go into specifics, and gave no clues to his thinking on possible changes in strategy. Instead, he spoke in general terms about his desire to end the bloodshed in Iraq.
He said Hashimi, the highest ranking Sunni Arab politician in that country, has lost loved ones to sectarian violence, yet remains committed to national unity. "In spite of his grief, and in spite of the pain in his heart, he is willing to work for a united Iraq and a peaceful Iraq," he said.
President Bush said the vice-president spoke eloquently of the suffering Iraqi families have endured at the hands of extremists and killers. He said America's objective is to support the vast majority of Iraqis who want peace. "And so Mr. Vice-President, my message to you today and the Iraqi people is we want to help your government be effective. We want to help your government live up to its words and ideals," he said.
Hashimi said the situation is difficult. But he stressed with good will and strong determination, Iraq can succeed. "There is a chance and I can assure you there is a great and real chance to get out of this present dilemma," he said.
Earlier in the day, President Bush conferred by teleconference with U.S. military commanders in Iraq and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
The meeting took place behind closed doors and White House Spokesman Tony Snow refused to provide details to reporters. Snow indicated the president has already decided on the broad outline of his revised Iraq strategy, but feels he needs more time to work out the specifics. "He has got some very clear practical, tactical and other questions, and so certainly the process and consultations will continue and people will be working very hard between now and the time the president has formulated the policy and is prepared to share his thoughts with the public and the world," he said.
Snow said the president wants the matter handled quickly but also wants it handled well.