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Bush Praises Iraqi Political Deal

President Bush has hailed the political agreement reached late Sunday by Iraqi leaders, calling it a promising sign of progress. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson has details.

The president says the deal is an important step towards resolving some of the issues standing in the way of political reconciliation.

The agreement emerged from talks involving five of Iraq's top elected leaders. The president says he talked to them on Monday. "These leaders represent all the Iraqi communities. These leaders - Prime Minister [Nouri] al- Maliki,[a Shiite], President [Jalal] Talibani [a Kurd], Vice President [Tariq al-] Hashemi,[a Sunni], Vice President Abdul Mahdi [a Shiite] and President [Massoud) Barzani [head of the semiautonomous Kurdish region] - recognize the true and meaningful reconciliation that needs to take place. And they recognize this is a process," he said.

Mr. Bush says the agreement demonstrates their commitment. "The agreement begins to establish new power sharing agreements, commits to supporting bottom-up security and political initiatives and advances agreement among Iraq's leadership on several key legislative benchmarks," he said.

President Bush spoke on an airport tarmac in Albuquerque, New Mexico, shortly after he arrived in the southwestern city for a campaign event.

In a brief statement, he sounded optimistic. But he acknowledged one major hurdle remains: winning the approval of the Iraqi parliament. "The Iraqi parliament will convene again in early September and it will need to act to codify this political progress," he said.

Details of the deal have not been released, but it is said to lift restrictions that prevent former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from joining the civil service and the military. The political leaders also agreed to release certain detainees.

The consensus agreement was welcome news for the Bush administration which faces a showdown with Congress in a few weeks. That is when the American military commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are to report to lawmakers on progress since the arrival of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops.