Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Key Bush summit on Iraq delayed .... Bush Stood Up by Maliki


US President George W Bush's meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has been delayed, hours after a leaked memo raised US doubts about Mr Maliki.
The two men are in Jordan and were supposed to be having evening talks with King Abdullah to discuss how to contain the growing violence in Iraq.

President Bush will still be meeting the king, but he will not see Mr Maliki until Thursday, the White House said.

The US denied the move was a snub by Mr Maliki or related to the leaked memo.

The New York Times newspaper has published details of a memo in which Mr Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, raised doubts about Mr Maliki's ability to control sectarian violence.

According to the Times, the 8 November memo said that while Mr Maliki's intentions seemed good, his capabilities were "not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into actions".

The Amman summit follows one of the bloodiest weeks in Iraq since the American-led invasion in 2003.

In protest against the planned meeting, the Iraqi political group loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr suspended its participation in the government.

The group, which has 30 MPs and a handful of ministers, said the meeting was a provocation to the Iraqi people.

The group had been making the threat for some days and had called for Mr Maliki to call off the Jordan meeting.

President Bush, who arrived from the Nato summit in Latvia, is expected to give public support to Mr Maliki, but privately will be renewing pressure on him to take action against Shia militias, our correspondent says.

When the two leaders do meet, they will also discuss moves to transfer more responsibility to Iraq's security forces.

Meanwhile Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who has been holding talks with Iranian leaders in Tehran, has urged Iran to back the elected Iraqi government, not Shia militia groups.

'Whirlpool of violence'

Jordan's King Abdullah met Mr Maliki shortly after the Iraqi prime minister's arrival. He told him that "national reconciliation among all the Iraqi factions" was the only solution to the crisis in Iraq, a statement from the Royal Palace said.

On Tuesday, King Abdullah told the BBC Arabic Service he was very concerned about increasing violence in Iraq.

"We [urge] our brothers in Iraq, the Iraqi political and religious leadership - be they Shia or Sunni - to realise the seriousness of the situation and not to allow any conspiracy to pass aimed at dividing or destroying Iraq in a whirlpool of violence and chaos," he said.

White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said the decision to delay talks between Mr Bush and Mr Maliki was "absolutely not" linked to the leaked memo.

Earllier, White House spokesman Tony Snow, travelling with Mr Bush, said the chief aim of the memo was "to support Maliki and enhance his capabilities".

Mr Bush is facing growing political pressure over the lack of progress in Iraq and the rising tide of violence, says the BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington.

Even the White House acknowledges the violence has reached a new phase, though it still dismisses talk of a civil war, he says.

Mr Bush is also under pressure to redouble US efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, our correspondent says, and will be told by King Abdullah that it is the most pressing crisis in the region.

Even Washington's strongest Arab allies are showing signs of frustration at US policies in the Middle East, he adds.

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