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Bush Says Security Team 'Making Good Progress' in Developing New Iraq Plan


U.S. President George Bush says he is making good progress on a revised strategy for Iraq. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports, the president spoke in the midst of consultations at his Texas ranch with his top national security advisers.

President Bush emerged from the meeting and spoke in positive terms.

"We are making good progress toward coming up with a plan that we think will help us achieve our objective," he said.

That objective, stated by the president on numerous occasions, is an Iraq that can sustain, defend and govern itself. The White House says the president is studying a number of options, including a possible increase in U.S. troop levels.

But as he stood on the grounds of his Texas ranch, surrounded by members of his national security team, Mr. Bush offered no clues as to the specific path he might take.

Instead, he spoke of the need for more consultations, both with Iraqi officials and members of the new U.S. Congress, which formally goes into session next week.

"Not only will I continue to reach out to Congress, but members of my team will continue to as well," he said. "I fully understand it is important to have Republicans and Democrats understanding the importance of this mission."

He said he wants to hear from all sides before addressing the American people, adding, the public must realize just how important success in Iraq is to the national security of the United States.

He said, "If we were to not succeed in Iraq, the enemy, the extremists, the radicals would have safe haven, from which to launch further attacks."

"They would be emboldened. They would be in a position to threaten the United States of America," he added.

The president's tone was somber as he made his brief statement to reporters. Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the nation's chief military officer, General Peter Pace, looked on in agreement.

Mr. Bush said that, during their meeting at the ranch, Gates and Pace provided a detailed report on their recent trip to Iraq. And he went on to stress the troops they deploy are very much on his mind as the New Year approaches.

"My thoughts are with the troops as we head into 2007," he said. "People are always asking me about a New Year's resolution. My resolution is that they will be safe."

The White House originally indicated the president would announce his revised strategy for Iraq before Christmas. Now, all that officials will say is that President Bush will address the nation on Iraq sometime before his State of the Union address on January 23.

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