By DEB RIECHMANN
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 7, 2006; 4:11 PM
WASHINGTON -- When he received his own copy of the Iraq Study Group report, President Bush praised the subtitle, "The way forward _ a new approach." On Thursday, it was clear he had added the phrase to his lexicon. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair used "forward" or "way forward" about two dozen times during their news conference about the war and problems in the Middle East.
Some of the main points about the report and what Bush said about them:
Iran and Syria:
Report: The United States should speak directly to Iran and Syria under the sponsorship of a new group made up of Iraq's neighbors and other nations wanting to help strengthen the Iraqi government.
Bush: The U.S. has made it clear to the Iranians that if they want to engage America, they must verifiably suspend their uranium enrichment program. Syria must stop destabilizing the Western-backed government in Lebanon, allowing arms and money cross its border into Iraq and providing safe haven to terrorist groups.
"If people come to the table to discuss Iraq, they need to come understanding their responsibilities to not fund terrorists, to help this young democracy survive, to help with the economics of the country," Bush said. "And if people are not committed, if Syria and Iran is not committed to that concept, then they shouldn't bother to show up."
U.S. policy and diplomacy:
Report: The U.S. immediately should seek the creation of a group of countries that would work to strengthen Iraq's sovereignty. The group would include Iraq; Iran, Syria and other neighbors; regional states such as Egypt and the Gulf States; the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council; and the European Union.
Bush: "The idea of having an international group is an interesting idea."
Report: Increase the number of U.S. trainers bolstering Iraqi security forces to as many as 20.000 _ up from 3,000 to 4,000 _ with the goal of withdrawing the bulk of U.S. combat troops. By the first quarter of 2008 _ "subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground" _ all combat brigades not necessary for force protection should be out of Iraq. At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces or in missions, such as special operations or search and rescue.
Bush: "We want the Iraqis taking the fight, but it's very important ... as we design programs, to be flexible and realistic and _ as the report said _ ... depending upon conditions," Bush said. "I thought that made a lot of sense. I've always said we'd like our troops out as fast as possible."
"Our commanders will be making recommendations based upon whether or not we're achieving our stated objective," Bush said. "And the objective, I repeat, is a government which can sustain, govern, and defend itself."
Israelis and Palestinians:
Report: There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the U.S. to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts, including Bush's commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.
Bush: "One of the reasons why there hasn't been instant success is because radicals and extremists are trying to stop the advance of a Palestinian state. Why? Because democracy is a defeat for them. That's what I strongly believe.
"And so, no question progress has been spotty. But it's important for people to understand one of the reasons why is, is because radicals are trying to prevent it, and they're willing to kill innocent people to prevent progress. Now, our goal is to help the (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud) Abbas government strengthen its security forces, and we're doing that."