Iraq Study Group Develops Policy Options as More Attacks Scar Country

He told reporters that the goal in Iraq remains “a government that can sustain, govern and defend itself and serve as an ally in this war on terror.”

President Bush also reaffirmed his willingness to work with the newly elected Democratic-led Congress. “What’s interesting is they’re beginning to understand that with victory comes responsibility, and I’m looking forward to working with the Democrats to achieve common objectives,” he said.

The Iraq Study Group is chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton. White House press secretary Tony Snow said the meeting was a “general conversation about the situation there,” not a preview of the recommendations from the group.

Many see the forthcoming report as laying the groundwork for a consensus to change U.S. policy in the war-torn country. It could provide both parties with a framework for agreement in a year when dissatisfaction with the war led to a congressional power changeover. Baker has indicated that the recommendations, due by the end of the year, will fall somewhere between the troop withdrawal strategy often attributed to Democrats and the stay-the-course policy heralded by the Bush administration until recently.

It also was revealed Monday that the Pentagon is doing its own inquiry about the situation in Iraq, to be led by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, the U.S. Central Command chief, confronted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over increasing sectarian violence in the country. Abizaid told al-Maliki he must disband Shiite militias and give the United States proof they were disarmed, senior Iraqi government officials told the Associated Press.

The announcements come on the heels of new attacks during the day and over the weekend. A bomb exploded Monday in a minibus in Baghdad’s largely Shiite Shaab neighbourhood, killing at least 20 people and wounding 18.

Elsewhere at least 10 other Iraqis died, including a member of the Diyala city council in a drive-by shooting.

Reports claimed at least 159 were killed on Sunday alone, 35 from suicide bombings at a Baghdad police recruiting station and 75 whose bodies were dumped in the capital and Baqouba.