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Bush Spends August Vacationing, Preparing for Release of Key Iraq Report in September


U.S. President George Bush spends much of the rest of this month away from the White House, either at his Texas ranch or his family's home in the northeast state of Maine, where he has lunch Saturday with French President Nicholas Sarkozy. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the president also will be preparing for the release of a key report to Congress next month on progress in Iraq.

This will be a shorter August break for the president than in past years, in part because of a meeting in Quebec with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

But Mr. Bush will also focus on a report to Congress, which could be crucial in keeping members of his own Republican party from joining calls by Democrats in Congress for a change of course in Iraq.

An initial report in June showed mixed progress from an increase of U.S. troops to help quell violence in Baghdad. Some Democrats said the president's strategy was failing. But most Republicans stood by the president, saying his plan needed more time to work.

That raises expectations for the September 15 report to Congress, being drafted by U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, and General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. The president sought to play down expectations surrounding that report during a news conference Thursday before leaving for the Bush family home in Maine.

"The surge success will not only include military successes and military failures, but also political successes and political failures. And my own perspective is, is that they have made some progress, but not enough," said Mr. Bush.

A public opinion poll this past week by CNN showed nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose the war. That is nearly the same number who disapprove of how the president is doing his job.

Mr. Bush says he understands Americans' frustration with the conflict and the debate over whether it is worth it.

The president is trying to rebuild some support for the war by continuing to warn of what he says will be long-term consequences for American security, if U.S. troops leave Iraq before there is a stable government there.

Mr. Bush says reaction to the September report to Congress will depend on whether people believe that.

"For those of us who believe it's worth it, we'll see progress," said the president. "For those who believe it's not worth it, there is no progress. And that's going to be the interesting debate."

Indicating the importance of the report, President Bush has eliminated other stops in Asia that had been planned around an early September APEC meeting in Australia.

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