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Bush Puts Finishing Touches on State of the Union Address

President Bush goes before the U.S. Congress and the American people Monday evening to lay out his priorities for his last year in office. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson previews the president's annual State of the Union address.

White House officials say the president will not spend much time looking back. Instead, they say, he will look to the future in his final State of the Union address.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says he will talk about areas where he feels he can work in concert with the Democratic majority in Congress. Key among them is the enactment of measures intended to stimulate the U.S. economy, and enhance efforts to counter the terrorist threat.

The president will call on Congress to act quickly to pass an economic stimulus package along the lines of the agreement the White House recently reached with Democratic and Republican leaders in the House of Representatives. He will also urge lawmakers to take urgent action to re-authorize a program that allows the government to monitor communications between Americans and people abroad who are believed to have terrorist ties, without first obtaining a warrant from a special court.

Mr. Bush is also likely to talk at some length about his hopes for a Mideast peace deal that would lay down the parameters of a Palestinian state. And, there is no doubt he will speak at some length about his desire to see democracy take solid root in a stable Iraq.

Many members of Congress have been calling on the White House to speed up planned withdrawals from Iraq later this year. The plan is to return to the force levels in place before an additional 30,000 troops were ordered in about one year ago.

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, says the president can report to Congress that those plans are moving forward.

"We are on track to withdraw four more brigade combat teams and two marine battalions by the end of July," said General Petraeus.

Petraeus spoke during an interview aired on CNN's Late Edition on the eve of the State of the Union address. When asked if further withdrawals might be possible, he was noncommittal. He said, after withdrawing roughly one-quarter of its combat power, the military will let things - in his words - settle a bit before making any decisions.

"We think it would be prudent to do some period of assessment, then to make decisions, and then of course to carry out further withdrawals, if the conditions are obtained that allow us to do that," he said.

Other foreign policy matters expected to come up in the president's speech include the fight against global hunger, and the battle against AIDS - two topics likely to be high on the agenda when Mr. Bush travels to Africa next month.

Spokeswoman Perino says the president is looking forward to the speech. However, she says he has no plans to deliver another State of the Union address next January in the days before he leaves office, and is likely to deliver his 2009 report in writing. His successor will then go before Congress shortly after inauguration day to lay out the policies and goals of the next administration.