Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the Iraqi government has not made as much progress as U.S. officials would like, but has urged congressional critics to give the Bush administration's Iraq strategy more time.
Rice spoke in a series of interviews on American television Friday - one day after the administration presented an interim report saying military and political progress in Iraq has been limited.
She called the situation in Iraq "difficult" but described it as "a work in progress."
Rice is to travel to the Middle East next month with Defense Secretary Robert Gates to consult with U.S. allies on Iraq.
The U.S. House of Representatives Thursday approved a resolution calling for withdrawal of most U.S. combat forces from Iraq by April 1 of next year.
The Democratic-controlled House voted in favor of the measure Thursday, 223 to 201. The resolution calls for President Bush to report to Congress if any U.S. forces are to remain in Iraq for limited purposes such as training Iraqi troops or protecting diplomats.
The interim Iraq report presented by the Bush administration Thursday shows satisfactory progress on eight of 18 benchmarks outlined by Congress. The report shows unsatisfactory progress on eight others and mixed results in two. It says there has been little progress on key political issues such as oil revenue-sharing and political reconciliation.
Congress set up the benchmarks in May, when it authorized continued funding for the Iraq war with the provision that the administration certify by July 15, and again on September 15, that the Iraqis are making progress toward those benchmarks.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.