Bush turns attention to Iraq, U.N.

President plans N.Y. trip for talks on nuclear threat posed by North Korea

September 14, 2005|By COX NEWS SERVICE

UNITED NATIONS - President Bush turned from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to diplomacy yesterday, meeting with Iraq's president at the White House before traveling to New York for two days of talks focusing on North Korea's nuclear ambitions and reforming the United Nations.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani warned that it would be the end of next year before Iraqi security forces are capable of taking over from "many American troops," suggesting that the time when all U.S. forces might return could be well after that.

Talabani appeared to retreat from comments he made in an interview published yesterday in The Washington Post that the United States could withdraw up to 50,000 troops from Iraq by the end of this year. There are about 140,000 U.S. forces in Iraq.

Polls show an increasing number of Americans are wary about U.S. military involvement in Iraq after a particularly violent August in which 85 U.S. troops died, the highest monthly death toll since January.

"We will set no timetable for withdrawal," Talabani said, in words Bush has used repeatedly. "A timetable will help the terrorists, will encourage them, that they could defeat a superpower ... and the Iraqi people."

In their joint news conference, Bush said, "As Iraqis stand up, America will stand down," and he pledged continuing U.S. support despite "acts of staggering brutality" by insurgents.

Later in New York, Bush held separate talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, pressing what Bush called his "grave concerns" over Iran's nuclear programs. Bush is in New York to attend the 60th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly. He will address the body today.

Bush said it is not yet time to seek sanctions against Iran before the Security Council. He praised Britain, Germany and France for leading efforts to find a way for Iran to build the civilian nuclear electricity industry it claims to want, while observing safeguards against weapons production.

"It is very important for the world to understand that Iran with a nuclear weapon will be increasingly destabilizing," Bush said. "This is a subject of grave concern."

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