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Bush Returns to Washington, Plans to Change Iraq Policy Within Weeks

By VOA News

President Bush has returned to Washington after meeting with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Jordan.

En route back to Washington, President Bush's national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, told reporters that Mr. Bush will make changes to his Iraqi policy in "weeks, rather than months." A bipartisan U.S. panel plans to announce its recommendations on Iraq next Wednesday.

U.S. media are reporting that the bipartisan Iraq Study group will recommend a gradual pullback of U.S. military forces, but no specific timetable.

The reports say the panel will recommend shifting the U.S. involvement in Iraq from combat to support operations.

In Jordan, President Bush and Mr. Maliki pledged to speed up the turnover of security responsibility to Iraqi forces.

Mr. Bush said U.S. forces will remain in Iraq as long as the Iraqi government wants them there.

The two leaders did not disclose a timetable for the security transfer. However, Mr. Maliki said in an interview with the U.S. network ABC, that Iraqi forces will be ready to take full control of security by June of next year.

A secret U.S. memo leaked this week suggested that the White House has doubts about Mr. Maliki's leadership abilities.

The Iraq Study Group apparently will not say whether the U.S. military's 15 combat brigades should be brought home, deployed to neighboring countries, or pulled back to bases inside Iraq. The panel is expected to say that the U.S. military commitment should not be open-ended.

The panel also is expected to recommend that the U.S. reach out to Iraq's neighbors, Iran and Syria.

Congress created the study group in March to assess the situation in Iraq and make recommendations to lawmakers and the Bush administration. Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton are the panel's co-chairs.

... Payvand News - 12/1/06 ... --

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