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Bush to set "benchmarks" for Iraqis: paper

Bush's new Iraq policy will include "benchmarks" for the Iraqi Govt to meet to ease sectarian violence and stabilise the country.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2007 18:23 IST

US President George W Bush's new Iraq policy will include "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government to meet to ease sectarian violence and stabilise the country, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

The newspaper cited senior administration officials as saying that the goals include steps to draw more Sunnis into the Iraqi political process and to finalise a measure on the distribution of oil revenue.

A plan to ease the Iraqi government's policy toward former Baath Party members was also among the benchmarks, the newspaper reported, citing officials it did not identify by name.

The US officials insisted that they intended to hold the Iraqis to a realistic timetable for action but did not say what the specific penalties for failure would be, the newspaper reported.

The White House declined direct comment on the report. "The president looks forward to speaking to the country this week about the way forward in Iraq," spokesman Alex Conant, said.

The New York Times said Bush was expected to refer to the benchmarks in a speech this week outlining his new Iraq strategy, including plans to send as many as 20,000 additional troops.

Administration officials plan to make the benchmarks public sometime after the address, the report said.

"There will be an approach and a strategy that reflects not only the desire for the Iraqis to take more responsibility but the need for the Iraqis to step up," a senior administration official familiar with the deliberations was quoted as saying. "This is not an open-ended commitment. We are putting real specific requirements and expectations on the Iraqi government."

Administration officials said that by more clearly defining the goals and by planning to make them public some time after Bush's address they hope to encourage a sense of accountability on the part of the Iraqis, the newspaper reported.