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Bush Plans Key Meetings on Sidelines of UN Meeting

President Bush goes to New York on Monday for several days of high-level meetings on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly debate. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Bush will discuss efforts to bring peace to the Middle East and to end violence in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

The president's meetings on Monday will focus on the Middle East. He is scheduled to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

He then meets with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is now representing the so-called Middle East Quartet, which includes the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

Mr. Bush also meets with the President of Brazil and attends a dinner at U.N. headquarters focusing on climate change.

Tuesday morning, President Bush meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before addressing the General Assembly. White House officials say those remarks will focus on efforts to increase U.N. involvement in bringing peace to Iraq.

Speaking to reporters at the White House this past week, Mr. Bush acknowledged that the pace of political progress in Baghdad has been slower than expected. When he announced plans to send reinforcements to Iraq earlier this year, one of his goals was to have Iraqis in charge of security in all 18 provinces by November.

U.S. military officials say that will not happen until next July, at the earliest.

While the timing has changed, Mr. Bush says his determination has not.

"The goals are the same," he said. "And have we achieved them as fast? No, we haven't. But, however, having not achieved them doesn't mean we ought to quit."

President Bush meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki following his General Assembly speech. He will take part in a roundtable on democracy before attending a Security Council meeting on Africa that is expected to focus on a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur.

While in New York, White House officials say, there are no plans for President Bush to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who Mr. Bush says is secretly developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is meant only to generate electricity.

Mr. Bush again told White House reporters he never rules out the possible use of force against Iran, but believes it is still possible to resolve the dispute diplomatically.

"And to this end, we are working with allies and friends to send a consistent message to the Iranians that there is a better way forward for them than isolation, financial isolation, and/or economic sanctions," he added.

A ministerial-level meeting of the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries plus Germany on Friday is expected to focus on a new sanctions resolution against Iran.

President Ahmadinejad's visit to New York includes a speech at Columbia University and a video news conference with reporters in Washington. But it will not include a visit to the site of the World Trade Center, destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 2001.

New York City police blocked that visit. President Bush says he understands why.

"I can understand why they would not want somebody running a country who is a state-sponsor of terror down there at the site," said Mr. Bush.

In an interview with an American television network before his arrival in New York, President Ahmadinejad said Iran does not sponsor terrorists and condemns violence against civilians.

President Bush concludes his time in New York Wednesday with a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.