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In Baghdad, Bush Pledges Support to Iraqi Leader
During brief and somewhat subdued remarks, the prime minister responded: "God willing, all of the suffering will be over, and all of the soldiers will be able to return to their countries with our gratitude for what they have offered."
Bush said later that "I came away with a very positive impression" of Maliki. "He was a serious-minded fellow who recognized that there had to be progress in order for the Iraqi people to believe the unity government will make a difference in their lives."
An adviser to Maliki, Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, said Bush's visit "showed that after the killing of Zarqawi, the Americans are not just going to rest, and that he is still in touch with Iraq."
But Sahib al-Amery, a political ally of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who issues frequent calls for the United States to withdraw from Iraq, called Bush "an unwelcome guest."
"He is the president of a country which is occupying our country," Amery said in a telephone interview from the southern city of Najaf.
Later, in a more raucous session with U.S. soldiers just before he departed, Bush received long ovations when he referred to two vanquished adversaries in the ongoing conflict: Hussein, the deposed Iraqi president who is standing trial about a mile from where Bush spoke, and Zarqawi, who was killed last Wednesday by two 500-pound bombs dropped by a U.S. warplane.
"Our military will continue to hunt people like Mr. Zarqawi and bring them to justice," he said, as the crowd cheered wildly for 30 seconds or more and waved hats before him. Hussein, he said, was "a selfish, brutal leader."
"Your sacrifice is noble. Your sacrifice is important," he told the soldiers, adding that he was aware of the strain that their service in Iraq placed on families. "I truly believe the work that you are doing is laying the foundations of peace for generations to come."
The Bush trip, the latest element of an unfolding presidential effort to regain the initiative in Iraq, was timed to the completion of Maliki's government but received a boost with the killing of Zarqawi, the most wanted leader of the insurgency.
Bush administration officials said that high-level discussions at Camp David on Monday and Tuesday dealt with potential initiatives to help the Iraqis develop better security for Baghdad, improve electricity service, rebuild the agricultural sector and solicit more help from Iraq's neighbors. But other than more technical assistance from U.S. Cabinet agencies, officials said they did not anticipate major departures in policy, new funds for reconstruction or troop reductions.
One general officer briefed on the Camp David sessions said no sign emerged of any shift in basic approach. "There were a lot of things affirmed at the meeting," said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk on the subject. "We did not get the impression coming out of there that there were any dramatic changes."
Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman, who attended the meetings at Camp David, said the group had an extensive discussion about oil and electricity problems, key priorities for the Iraqi government. One idea mentioned by Bush was setting up a fund with some of the country's oil revenue that could be shared with the people, perhaps as the state of Alaska does with its oil revenue, Bodman said.
But Bodman stressed: "The plan has to be the Iraqi plan. . . . The Iraqis are going to be making decisions. It is clear to everybody that the assets represented by the oil . . . are the property of the Iraqi people."
Abramowitz reported from Washington. Staff writers Bradley Graham, Ann Scott Tyson and Charles Babington in Washington and special correspondents Saad al-Izzi in Baghdad and Saad Sarhan in Najaf contributed to this report.