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Bush, Talabani Discuss Iraq's Future at White House Meeting


President Bush welcomed Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to the Oval Office to discuss a stable future for the turbulent country. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino says the two leaders met for about an hour for talks on legislation that would share oil revenue, authorize provincial elections, and allow members of Saddam Hussein's former ruling party to hold jobs in the current government.

"The president said how important it is that the Iraqi parliament pass these laws, and President Talabani agreed," Perino said. "They also spoke about the importance of an enduring partnership between our two countries as Iraq will be a bulwark against terrorism and extremism in the region."

Perino says the American leader gave his Iraqi counterpart no deadlines for passing the bills. Those are the same three issues President Bush said he believed Iraqi leaders were making progress toward when he announced that he was sending more troops to Iraq earlier this year.

Some of the reinforcements will soon be coming home, leaving what Perino describes as a series of complicated issues still to be decided.

"They are starting to move forward. I understand the frustration and the impatience. I think that they are moving in the right direction," Perino said.

Congress is currently considering the president's request for $190 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Public opinion polls show most Americans want that cut.

A survey by the Washington Post and ABC News says only 27 percent of Americans want Congress to approve all of the money. The survey put the president's approval rating at 33 percent, his lowest number ever in that poll.

The president is trying to rebuild public support for the Iraq war by saying that it is making America safer and continuing progress there will allow him to bring more troops home next year.

Spokeswoman Perino says the president knows the war is unpopular, but he is convinced that helping Iraq's government will contribute to regional stability.

"The president understands that the American people are impatient, but more importantly, he also understands that the Iraqi people are also impatient with their government," Perino said. "And having two leaders get together to talk about how do you push and make sure that this is all going in the right direction and that they achieve what they work to achieve on these three bills, I think that it is very worthwhile for the president to meet with President Talabani."

Perino says neither President Talabani nor President Bush brought up the issue of the private security firm Blackwater USA, which is under investigation for killing Iraqi civilians while providing security for American diplomats in Iraq.


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