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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 22:35 GMT
Bush delays fresh Iraq strategy
President George W Bush
Mr Bush is engaged in a flurry of meetings about Iraq
President George W Bush will delay his announcement of possible changes to US policy in Iraq until after the new year, the White House has confirmed.

The speech - which had been expected before Christmas - was "not ready yet", White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

The news comes as Mr Bush held a second day of talks with top US and Iraqi officials on the Iraq issue.

The talks follow a recent report on US policy in Iraq that called for urgent action to stop "a slide towards chaos".

Our objective is to help the Iraqi government deal with the extremists and the killers, and support the vast majority of Iraqis who... who want peace
US President George W Bush

The high-level review by the Iraq Study Group (ISG) published last week said the current US strategy of staying the course was no longer viable.

It offered no hard timetable for a pullout of US forces, but said combat troops could withdraw by early 2008.

The report's 79 recommendations included holding direct talks with Iran and Syria.

On Tuesday, at least 70 people were killed and more than 230 injured in Baghdad after a suicide attacker set off a large bomb in the capital.

Correspondents say the blast appears to be the latest violence in a spiral of sectarian attacks.

'New alliance'

Mr Snow said that President Bush's televised address on the direction of US policy in Iraq "is not going to happen until the new year".

Iraqi Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi
Iraq's vice-president is the highest-ranking Sunni politician in Iraq

"He decided that, frankly, it's not ready yet," the spokesman said, insisting it did not mean that Mr Bush was planning any major last-minute revisions.

With opinion polls suggesting the US public's dissatisfaction with Iraq policy is getting worse, the speech is sure to be one of the most important of Mr Bush's presidency, the BBC's James Coomarasamy reports from Washington.

On Tuesday, President Bush presided over a videoconference with his senior military commanders in Iraq, including outgoing Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his successor Robert Gates.

Mr Bush also met Iraq's Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi.

"Our objective is to help the Iraqi government deal with the extremists and the killers, and support the vast majority of Iraqis who are reasonable, who want peace," Mr Bush said.

For his part, Mr Hashimi - who has lost both his brother and his sister to the insurgency - praised President Bush's determination.

He said that while times were hard in Iraq, there was a "light in the corridor".

Mr Hashimi is the latest in a series of Iraqi leaders to meet Mr Bush - last week he held talks with a senior Shia politician.

Iraqi politicians say several groups, including the party led by Mr Hashimi, are discussing a new alliance designed to isolate the movement of the anti-American Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.


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President Bush meeting Iraq's vice-president





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