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Bush to Meet with National Security Team on Iraq


President Bush holds private consultations Thursday at his Texas ranch with members of his national security team. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House that Mr. Bush is expected to announce a revised Iraq strategy in early 2007.

The president will confer with his top advisers in seclusion on the grounds of his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Aides say he will make a few brief public comments when the meeting is over, but they stress this is not a decision-making session.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel says it is an opportunity for Mr. Bush to review options, and ask more questions.

"This is a time for the president to be talking with his advisers about all the potential options, making sure that due consideration is given to the next steps, making sure that we are thinking through the new way forward in Iraq to take into account all the differing views," he said.

At a briefing for reporters near the Bush ranch, Stanzel said the meeting is likely to begin fairly early Thursday.

He said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates would arrive on Wednesday, and the remaining participants would follow first thing in the morning. They include the nation's top military officer, General Peter Pace, and White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

Stanzel was then asked about the potential for increased violence in Iraq when the death sentence handed down on ousted President Saddam Hussein is finally carried out.

He said terrorists and Saddam's supporters have always been willing to seize on any opportunity to promote violence. He indicated Iraqi and coalition security forces are well aware of the potential.

"We have seen in the past that the enemies have worked to use any excuse to foment violence and that is something that we are monitoring," he said.

Stanzel was also asked if the funeral of former U.S. President Gerald Ford might prompt the president to delay any announcement on Iraq. The White House spokesman said that would not be the case, adding the president still intends to unveil his revised strategy in January.

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