President Bush says Iraqis should play a bigger role in governing their country and he has instructed the U.S. administrator for Iraq to work out a deal to speed up the process with the country's Governing Council. After two days of talks on how to get the United States out of Iraq faster, President Bush says he is sending Ambassador Paul Bremer back to Baghdad to get members of the U.S. appointed Governing Council to assume more responsibility.
"We want the Iraqis to be more involved in the governance of their country," he said. "And so Ambassador Bremer, with my instructions, is going back to talk to the Governing Council to develop a strategy."
One possible plan includes Iraqis voting within six months for a transitional government that would help draft a new constitution and assume larger executive powers before full elections some time later.
That would change the administration's approach at the United Nations where two months ago senior officials said there would be no elections before a new constitution.
Drafting and ratifying a new constitution could take years and would almost certainly extend past next year's U.S. presidential election where the economy and Iraq will be major campaign issues.
The White House now says its approach in Iraq must be flexible. As the military campaign has evolved to fight changing threats, so too, it's argued, the political approach must change to accelerate the return to self-rule at a time when the CIA reportedly believes support for the Iraqi opposition is growing.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Bush said Iraqis want to be more involved in governing the country and he wants to help them.
"Our goal, of course is to continue to work with those Iraqi citizens who understand that freedom is a precious commodity, those who understand that there is a hopeful life possible, in a part of the world where a lot of hope has been diminished in the past," said President Bush.
The president again said coalition forces will defeat those responsible for continuing violence that has now claimed the lives of almost 400 U.S. soldiers.
"The goal of the terrorists, whether they be Baathists or Mujahadeen fighters, or al-Qaida-type fighters is to create terror and fear amongst average Iraqis, is to create conditions where people are just so fearful for their lives that they cannot think positively about freedom," emphasized Mr. Bush.
The president's linking Iraqi violence with the al-Qaida terrorists blamed for the September 2001 attacks in the United States is part of the administration's strategy to make the war in Iraq the central front in the broader fight against terrorism.
It's a theme picked up by coalition allies as Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino said Wednesday's truck-bombing that killed at least 18 Italians in the southern city of Nasiriyah was carried out by the same people responsible for the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.
Following a White House meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said accelerating Iraq's political process works alongside taking the fight to the enemy.
"A strategy for dealing with terrorism has to involve intense security action alongside political and social processes and that is exactly the strategy on which we are involved," he said.
Secretary Straw's visit to Washington comes ahead of President Bush's trip to London next week where he is expected to face large protests over the U.S. occupation of Iraq.