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Bush Gets Progress Report From Iraq


President Bush and members of his national security team conferred via video teleconference Monday with U.S. reconstruction and military officials in Iraq. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson has details.

President Bush leaves no doubt he is pleased with the news he got from U.S. personnel in Baghdad, Fallujah and Wasit province.

"For the week of September 8th to 15th, attack levels across Iraq are the lowest they have been since January of 2006, which of course is the time prior to the [Golden Mosque of] Sammara bombing," said President Bush.

Mr. Bush says, all in all, there is reason to be confident of success.

"When you combine that with grass roots efforts that our provincial reconstruction teams are making, you begin to get a sense of why I am confident we can succeed in Iraq," he said.

The president and his top national security aides gathered in a White House conference room for the briefing from Iraq. They were surrounded by television screens showing their briefers. Half were military men in uniform, half were reconstruction workers in civilian clothes.

Mr. Bush told them their combined efforts are making a difference.

"I look forward to further discussions with those who actually see the progress that is taking place, with those who are living amongst the people and report first hand that the success that was reported on by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker is happening on a daily basis," he said.

Last Thursday, the president announced he was accepting a plan for a modest troop drawdown put forward by General David Petraeus, his top commander in Iraq. Mr. Bush stressed as more progress is made, more American soldiers will be heading home.

But congressional critics remain skeptical. And no one has been more adamant in his opposition to the war than Democrat John Murtha of Pennsylvania.

During an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, Murtha challenged the report General Petraeus delivered to Congress last week.

"The lessons of history are clear," he said. "There is a limitation to military power. Economic and political and diplomatic challenges must be solved. They cannot be solved by military means and they shouldn't be distorted by rhetoric."

Murtha acknowledged that while Democrats are in the majority they still lack the vote margin they need in the Senate to pass legislation that would accelerate U.S. troop reductions beyond the figure announced by the president.

While Congress will take up a new Iraq war supplemental funding request soon, Murtha said he expects it won't be until next year after key U.S. presidential primary contests that Republicans will begin to part ways with President Bush's Iraq policies in greater numbers.