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Bush Meets Pentagon Leaders on Iraq


U.S. President George Bush is wrapping up a series of meetings aimed at finding what he says will be a new way forward in Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Bush is expected to announce that strategy early next year.

President Bush met with senior defense officials in the last publicly-scheduled consultation on Iraq before he and his national security team decide on the new way forward.

"I will be delivering my plans after a long deliberation, after steady deliberation," said President Bush. "I am not going to be rushed into making a difficult decision, a necessary decision to say to our troops, 'We are going to give you the tools necessary to succeed and a strategy to help you succeed.'"

President Bush says it is in America's interest to help Iraq's government sustain itself, defend itself, and become an ally in the broader fight against terrorism.

"We are not going to give up," he said. "The stakes are too high and the consequences too grave to turn Iraq over to extremists who want to do the American people and the Iraqi people harm."

During his time at the Pentagon, Mr. Bush met with the , their chairman General Peter Pace, and outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as well as his successor, Robert Gates.

Before those talks, the president telephoned Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdish regional leader Massoud Barzani.

Also included in his consultations this week were Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, U.S. commanders in Iraq and senior officials from the State Department and National Security Council.

White House Spokesman Tony Snow says the broad review of U.S. policy in Iraq has in no way slowed ongoing military operations there.

"It is not the case that the people have returned to barracks and corked-up the cannons and said, 'We'll just await further orders.' As a matter of fact, there are continuing, aggressive, ongoing operations against terror cells within Baghdad," said Tony Snow. "There have been very active operations within Anbar in recent weeks."

Snow says the president wants the new way forward in Iraq decided quickly but also done well. He says one of the goals of that new strategy is to inspire confidence in the American people.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll says 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq. A majority of those surveyed believe the United States is losing the war and support the withdrawal of nearly all U.S. combat forces by early 2008.

Falling public support for the war has taken a toll on the president's approval ratings. A USA Today/Gallup poll says a majority of Americans - 54 percent - now believe history will judge Mr. Bush as a below-average or poor president. That percentage is more than double the negative rating given any of the last five presidents before him.

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