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Bush heads to Jordan for crucial summit on Iraq

india Updated: Nov 29, 2006 08:56 IST
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US President George W Bush heads to Jordan on Wednesday for a crucial summit aimed at finding ways to quell the surge of sectarian fighting in Iraq, even as he signaled no imminent change in Washington's policy.

Bush is to have a brief three-way meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Jordan's King Abdullah II upon his arrival in the Jordanian capital early in the evening, before heading into a working dinner with the king.

"Shortly after his arrival in Amman, President Bush will have a meeting with King Abdullah II and then they will be joined briefly by the Iraqi prime minister," a Jordanian official said on Tuesday.

The Jordanian monarch and Bush will meet again with delegations from both countries "over a working dinner", the official added.

Thursday morning Bush and Maliki will have breakfast talks and then will hold a joint news conference, the official said.

King Abdullah II plans to use his time with Bush to urge a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Meanwhile, Bush pledged not to pull US troops out of Iraq until their mission has been completed and sidestepped questions over whether the country was now in a state of civil war.

"One thing I won't do, I am not going to pull the troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," Bush said in a speech on his arrival in the Latvian capital Riga for a NATO summit.

Earlier in the day, Bush avoided suggestions that Iraq had sunk into civil war, arguing that a recent upsurge in violence was part of a long-term spiral of sectarian unrest.

"We have been in this phase for a while," Bush insisted during a stop-over in Estonia on his way to Riga.

"The bombing that took place recently was a part of a pattern that has been going on for about nine months," the US leader said.

Asked to explain how the situation in Iraq differed from civil war, Bush chose to highlight the role insurgents were playing in inflaming communal strife.

"No question it's tough. There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, happening in my opinion because of these attacks by Al-Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisals, and we will work with the Maliki government to defeat these elements," Bush told reporters.

His comments came hot on the heels of an acknowledgement on Monday by his National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley that the conflict in Iraq had entered a "new phase" — a characterization that was jumped on by the US media as implying civil war.

A flurry of high-ranking officials, including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, were also heading to Jordan for a two-day conference on democracy beginning Thursday as part of a US initiative to promote reforms in the Middle East.

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