Bush, Iraq’s Talabani Reaffirm Commitment To Meet Benchmarks

By David McKeeby
USINFO White House Correspondent

Washington - President Bush and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani reaffirmed their commitment to Iraqi national reconciliation at a White House meeting May 31.

“I'm fully committed to helping the Iraqi government achieve important objectives,” Bush said following their meeting, expressing his belief that the Iraqi president “fully understands the need for the Iraqi government to meet certain benchmarks, and he is dedicated to achieving those benchmarks.”

High-priority reforms, Bush said, are a new oil law defining how Iraq’s energy revenues would be divided among federal and provincial authorities, a resolution of the status of former Saddam-era Ba’ath Party members and a new election law. (See related article.)

Action on these reforms, Bush said, would “show the Iraqi citizens that there is a unified government.”

“I am committed as the president of Iraq to benchmarks and to do our best to achieve some progress forward for national reconciliation,” Talabani said. “At the same time, we are committed to do our best to train our army and armed forces to replace gradually the American forces in taking responsibility of security of our country.”

Earlier on May 31, White House spokesman Tony Snow said that Bush held a secure videoconference May 30 with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Vice Presidents Adil Abd al-Mahdi and Tariq al-Hashimi to discuss progress on these and other reforms.

The meeting of top Shiite and Sunni politicians, Snow said, is “a sign of growing cooperation between key sectarian leaders within Iraq.”

Successful reforms in Iraq are essential to stabilizing the country, Bush said, and would prevent insurgents from establishing new strongholds to plan future attacks.

“We must not let al-Qaida have a safe haven in Iraq; we must not retreat in the face of the unspeakable violence that they perpetuate on your citizens," Bush said.

Talabani said al-Qaida is an enemy not just of Iraq and the United States, but of all people of the world.

“Look to the Arab countries; everywhere al-Qaida - in Lebanon, in Algeria, in Morocco, in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt. Al-Qaida is starting work against all peoples of Middle East,” Talabani said.

“If all Iraqis show the same courage you show, we will prevail,” Bush told Talabani.

For additional details, see a transcript of Bush’s and Talabani’s remarks.

For more information, see Iraq Update.