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Bush Consults with Foreign Leaders on Iraq - 2004-04-09

President Bush is monitoring events in Iraq from his Texas ranch. Mr. Bush is also calling foreign leaders, and consulting by video conference with his top advisors.

It has turned into a working vacation for the president, with the focus on the violence in Iraq.

Aides say he spent Friday morning consulting by telephone and video conference with leaders of other coalition countries and his national security team.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says Mr. Bush began his day with calls to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, and El Salvador's President Francisco Flores.

Mr. McClellan says the calls centered on the current situation in Iraq. He says all four leaders reaffirmed their commitment to helping the Iraqi people achieve a free and democratic future. He says they also vowed to defeat what he called, extremist elements, who want to derail the transition to democracy through violence.

The White House spokesman provided no further details, except to say Mr. Bush expressed condolences to President Flores for the recent death of a Salvadoran soldier in Iraq.

Later in the day, President Bush convened a meeting of his National Security Council, with participants joining in through secure video links. Mr. McClellan told reporters, Mr. Bush got an update on military operations, including efforts to defeat the militia led by radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Another topic was the possibility of terrorist activity during the Shi'ite pilgrimage in southern Iraq.

Those taking part included Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, senior generals from the field, and the the top American in Iraq, Paul Bremmer, who heads the coalition authority.

Also joining the session from Washington was the president's National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice. Ms. Rice, who testified Thursday before the independent commission investigating the September 11 terrorist attacks, is to spend the Easter weekend with the Bush family in Crawford, Texas.