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Bush, Blair Summit to Focus on Iraq


President Bush is at his official mountaintop retreat for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Mr. Bush went directly to Camp David from Florida, where he visited the military command headquarters that is coordinating forces in Iraq.

The president and the prime minister will meet in seclusion at Camp David, with only a few aides present.

Their summit will last less than 24 hours, and will end with a press conference at Camp David.

Their discussions will focus on the war in Iraq, and the outlook for the future. There are indications Mr. Blair also wants to talk about prospects for Mideast peace, and ways to ease tensions between the United States and European nations that oppose the Iraqi conflict.

The two last met in the Azores in the north Atlantic, just days before the war began. Along with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, they released a statement that brought up a possible role for the U.N. in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Britain wants to put the U.N. at the center of Iraq's political and economic recovery, and Mr. Blair is to stop in New York after leaving Camp David to consult with Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The United States also wants U.N. involvement, but not to the extent envisioned by Great Britain. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush believes the future role of the U.N. in Iraq is still open to discussion.

He spoke to reporters accompanying the president on a visit to the U.S. military's Central Command Headquarters in Florida, which is the home base of the commanders leading Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Mr. Bush was briefed by top military planners at CentCom, as it is commonly known. He also spoke to thousands of troops, praising their efforts and rallying public support for a war that may be much longer and more grueling than most Americans expected.

"We cannot know the duration of this war, but we are prepared for the battle ahead. We cannot predict the final day of the Iraqi regime, but I can assure you, and I assure the long-suffering people of Iraq, there will be a day of reckoning for the Iraqi regime and that day is drawing near," he said.

The president said the U.S. and its partners will be relentless in the pursuit of victory. He said that coalition forces in Iraq are skilled and courageous, noting troops from other countries are making a big contribution to the war effort.

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