Thu, Jan 04, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Bush to unveil new Iraq policy

TOP PRIORITIES In a `Wall Street Journal' column, the US president said tax cuts and the war in Iraq were key concerns and urged Democrats and Republicans to cooperate

AFP , WASHINGTON

US President George W. Bush, in a column published yesterday, said he was ready to work with Democrats on the eve of their takeover of Congress and said that a new strategy "to help the Iraqi people" was under way.

Bush wrote in the Wall Street Journal that winning the war in Iraq and making his tax cuts permanent were top priorities, two issues in which he has butted heads with Democrats.

"Together, we have a chance to serve the American people by solving the complex problems that many don't expect us to tackle, let alone solve, in the partisan environment of today's Washington," Bush wrote.

"To do that, however, we can't play politics as usual," he said in the column that appeared one day before lawmakers were to take their oaths of office.

"Democrats will control the House and Senate, and therefore we share the responsibility for what we achieve," he wrote.

Bush, whose Republican party's electoral defeat on Nov. 7 was widely attributed to the unpopularity of the Iraq war, said he would soon lay out a new strategy to help the Iraqi government gain full control over its affairs.

"Leaders in both parties understand the stakes in this struggle. We now have the opportunity to build a bipartisan consensus to fight and win the war," he wrote.

While reaching out to Democrats, Bush also warned that partisan bickering could lead to political deadlock in the final two years of his presidency.

"If the Congress chooses to pass bills that are simply political statements, they will have chosen stalemate," Bush wrote. "If a different approach is taken, the next two years can be fruitful ones for our nation."

"We can show the American people that Republicans and Democrats can come together to find ways to help make America a more secure, prosperous and hopeful society," he wrote. "And we will show our enemies that the open debate they believe is a fatal weakness is the great strength that has allowed democracies to flourish and succeed."

Bush promised yesterday to present a new Iraq policy in the days ahead amid warnings that even members of his own Republican party opposed escalating the unpopular war.

The president has previously said he is considering "all options," including a temporary increase of US troops in Iraq.

"In the days ahead, I will be addressing our nation about a new strategy to help the Iraqi people gain control of the security situation and hasten the day when the Iraqi government gains full control over its affairs," he wrote.

Bush was scheduled to meet congressional leaders of both major US parties yesterday for informal talks on a range of issues including Iraq, an administration official said on Tuesday.

"I'd expect a range of topics about the year ahead to be discussed among the group, including Iraq," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Bush has been holding consultations ahead of a speech, expected as early as next week, in which he is likely to unveil a new strategy for Iraq, possibly including an increase of troop numbers there.

Most opposition Democrats, some prominent Republicans, and the top US military commander in Baghdad, General George Casey, have warned against a prolonged expansion in military presence.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is strongly opposed to more troops, describing it to a newspaper columnist as a policy of "Alice in Wonderland."

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