As House votes, Bush stresses Iraq positives

Times Staff Writer

On the day the House delivered a sharp denunciation of his Iraq policy, President Bush immersed himself in the details of carrying it out, speaking in a videoconference with Iraq’s prime minister about the new push to restore order in the war-torn country.

Bush also met with the new military chief of U.S. forces throughout the Middle East and his nominee to be the U.S. ambassador in Iraq.

The president stressed positive news he said he had gotten from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Bush said Maliki was moving Iraqi troops into Baghdad, as part of the renewed U.S.-led effort to secure the capital.


Bush also said he saw progress in the Iraqi government’s willingness to try to stem sectarian violence and in its readiness to contribute financially to the country’s reconstruction.

In a statement, Bush said Maliki’s efforts “should give people here in the United States confidence that this government knows its responsibilities and is following through on those responsibilities.”

During the day, Bush also spoke with two other Middle East leaders, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. The talks were part of an effort to energize peace talks in the Middle East ahead of a visit there next week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

With the administration’s setback in the House a certainty for weeks, Bush made no public effort to sway the vote. On Friday, the White House turned its effort to what Press Secretary Tony Snow said would be an aggressive campaign to win support for the additional funding Bush is seeking for the war in Iraq.

Snow noted that the House resolution was nonbinding on the administration, and that the more important battle was the approaching congressional consideration of the $93 billion in additional funding for the Pentagon. “Our men and women in combat are counting on” the funding, Snow said.

The president met in the afternoon with Adm. William J. Fallon, the incoming commander of U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. forces in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Bush also met with Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan whom Bush has nominated as the envoy to Iraq.