Blair and Bush meet on Iraq

The US and British leaders discuss the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.

    The US president is under renewed political pressure following the report of the Iraq Study Group

    Gordon Johndroe, Bush's national security spokesman, said on the eve of Blair's visit: "The two leaders have a number of issues to discuss, including Iraq, the broader war on terror, the Nato commitment to Afghanistan, Sudan as well as free and fair trade."
    Peace talks
    The Iraq Study Group advised Bush to begin withdrawing US combat forces from Iraq and to launch a diplomatic push that would include Iraq's neighbours Iran and Syria.
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    It also called for wider moves to resolve conflict in the region and urged Israel to begin peace talks with Syria.
    "We do not recommend a stay-the-course solution," said former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican who co-chaired the bi-partisan commission with a senior Democrat, Lee Hamilton.
    "In our opinion, that is no longer viable." When the 10-member panel spoke with Blair last month, the prime minister was considering similar issues to the panel.
    Lawrence Eagleburger, a secretary of state under the former president George Bush, the current president's father, said: "He [Blair] was dealing in many ways with precisely the same questions we were and with pretty much the same answers."
    Leon Panetta, a White House chief of staff to the former president, Bill Clinton, said Blair had suggested the panel push for its recommendations to begin to be put in place by as early as January.
    "The United States government has never moved that fast on anything," Eagleburger said during a joint interview with reporters.
    Bush and Blair also meet a day after the Senate confirmed Robert Gates as the new US defence secretary, replacing Donald Rumsfeld, who was a key architect of the war and a favourite target of its critics.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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