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Bush Preps for Summit on Iraq Strategy
The sessions were already on the schedule before Wednesday's killing of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. airstrike and the Iraqi parliament's approval Thursday of three key security ministers. White House officials said the meetings would be conducted against the backdrop of how both developments may have changed things.
"The difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues," Bush said.
With only a third of Americans supporting Bush's handling of Iraq, according to AP-Ipsos polling in early June before al-Zarqawi's death, and some Democrats calling for U.S. troops to come home by the end of the year, Bush is under pressure to show progress.
"Everybody views the completion of a truly unity government as a moment of opportunity," White House counselor Dan Bartlett said. "Everybody also recognizes that there's a window there in which it's important for them to show success. And that is exactly why the meeting is taking place now _ to make sure we're doing everything we can to ensure success."
On Saturday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid _ speaking for Democrats in the party's weekly radio address _ called on Bush to emerge from the meetings with a concrete plan for making 2006 "a year of significant transition" in Iraq.
"Our troops and the American people have been exceedingly patient as previous mileposts in Iraq have passed without progress. The president is asking too much if he expects us to do it again," said Reid, D-Nev. "We need more than platitudes next week."
Bush and his aides said no troop-withdrawal plan was in the offing.
"This is not a meeting about drawdowns," Bartlett said. "It's a meeting about how can we best help the Iraqis help secure their country."
The president has been at Camp David since Thursday, conferring there Friday with an Iraq ally, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and preparing with aides for the meetings.
Bush was spending Sunday night at the White House for a long-planned social engagement, before returning to the retreat Monday.