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Bush, Iraqi PM Maliki Discuss Security

U.S. President George Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke for nearly an hour Friday about improving security in Baghdad. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

In a secure videoteleconference, President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki discussed the new strategy for Iraq, where additional U.S. troops are joining Iraqi units to better secure the capital.

White House Spokesman Tony Snow says the two leaders believe the new strategy is starting to show results.

"They discussed progress in implementing the Baghdad security plan and positive indicators that the plan is coming together and beginning to have an impact in Baghdad," he said. "The prime minister again affirmed that no one is going to be above the law regardless of religious affiliation or social status."

President Bush says past efforts to secure Baghdad failed in part because of political interference from Iraqi leaders who tried to limit the scope of U.S. operations.

Snow says Mr. Bush emphasized the need to equitably distribute the $10 dollars in Iraq's budget for reconstruction.

The two leaders also discussed the situation in Anbar province, where Snow says they agreed there are opportunities for Iraq's government to support civilians actively opposing al-Qaida in Iraq.

President Bush says Prime Minister Maliki is beginning to meet important benchmarks for improving security and political cooperation.

"And that's good news for the Iraqi people, and it should give people here in the United States confidence that this government knows its responsibilities and is following through on those responsibilities," he said.

The president spoke following a meeting with Ryan Crocker. Mr. Bush has nominated him to be the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

He said, "The ambassador heads into a really important assignment, carrying a message of hope to the Iraqi people that the United States wants them to succeed and a message of urgency to the Iraqi government that our patience is not unlimited and that we expect that government to perform."

A public opinion poll this week by the newspaper USA Today says a majority of Americans believe it was a mistake to invade Iraq, and 60 percent oppose sending more troops.

The war has hurt President Bush's approval ratings and helped opposition Democrats win control of both houses of Congress last year.

President Bush says Democrats are criticizing his new strategy for Iraq before they have given it a chance to succeed.