Mon, Oct 23, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Bush meets with top US officials to discuss Iraq

JUST RUMORS?A US daily reported on its Web site on Saturday that the administration planned to give the Iraqi authorities a deadline to address the security situation

AFP , WASHINGTON

Amid a surge in US soldier deaths and under increasing pressure to change course in Iraq, US President George W. Bush has met with top military commanders to mull possible adjustments to US strategy, the White House said.

Bush conducted talks with General John Abizaid, the top commander in the Middle East; General George Casey, the US commander in Iraq; Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley; Deputy National Security Adviser Jack Crouch and US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, according to Nicole Guillemard, a White House spokeswoman.

Guillemard said Saturday's top-level meeting, with Casey and Khalilzad participating via video link from Baghdad, was part of ongoing talks on Iraq policy.

This meeting was the third in a series of consultations between the US president and his commanders in the field on Iraq.

"The participants focused on the nature of the enemy, the challenges in Iraq, how to better pursue our strategy and the stakes of succeeding for the region and the security of the American people," the spokeswoman said.

The New York Times reported on its Web site later on Saturday that the US planned to give the Iraqi government a timetable to address sectarian violence and get a handle on the security situation, and it will threaten penalties if the Iraqis fail to reach US-established benchmarks.

Citing unnamed senior US officials, the newspaper said the blueprint is to be presented to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki before the end of the year.

The meeting came as the country experiences one of the deadliest months for US troops in Iraq since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, fueling beliefs that a major adjustment in US policy could be in the works.

At least 75 US troops have been killed so far this month as the US seeks to quell bombings and violence, especially in Baghdad.

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