U.S. President George Bush and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met at the White House Wednesday to talk about Iraq's provincial election law and the need to finish talks on an agreement governing U.S. troops in Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.
The two leaders met one day after President Bush announced the withdrawal of 8,000 U.S. troops from Iraq early next year.
Mr. Bush says that withdrawal is possible because of improved security that followed his decision to send reinforcement to Iraq last year.
"It's still difficult, but there is no doubt that the surge has been effective which has enabled us to take out troops. The Iraqis want there to be fewer U.S. troops. The United States wants there to be fewer U.S. troops, but both of us want to realize that based upon success," he said.
Speaking to reporters following their talks, Mr. Bush said they had a good conversation about the need to conclude a strategic framework agreement to govern U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. Security Council mandate expires at the end of the year.
The president said they also discussed Iraq's still-pending provincial election law, which is meant to better involve political groups that boycotted balloting three years ago.
The last session of parliament failed to resolve outstanding issues in the electoral law, including the status of the city of Kirkuk. Kurdish officials want the city as part of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan. Turkmen and Sunni Arab lawmakers want a power-sharing agreement.
President Talabani has been in the United States since August heart surgery in the Midwest state of Minnesota. Mr. Bush said Mr. Talabani's health is strong, which he says is important for the people of Iraq.
President Talabani thanked Mr. Bush and the U.S. military for improved security in Iraq.
"There are some terrorist cell groups working and hiding themselves. And thanks to you and the sacrifice of your army and to Iraqi people, now we can live in peace," he said.
The United States has been urging Arab nations to send ambassadors to Baghdad to support the Talabani government. The United Arab Emirates' ambassador presented his credentials in the capital Tuesday, becoming the first Arab ambassador to do so since 2005.