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President Bush Reaffirms Support for Iraqi Prime Minister

President Bush reiterated his support of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a speech Wednesday after criticizing the embattled leader earlier this week. Experts discuss the president's relationship with the premier.

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    Speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City today, the president endorsed the Iraqi prime minister, ahead of a new assessment on the war just weeks away.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man with a difficult job, and I support him. And it's not up to the politicians in Washington, D.C., to say whether he will remain in his position. That is up to the Iraqi people, who now live in a democracy and not a dictatorship.


    That public embrace came less than 24 hours after these comments at the end of the North American summit in Canada.


    I think there's a certain level of frustration with the leadership in general, inability to work — come together to get, for example, an oil revenue law passed or provincial elections. People at the grassroots level are sick and tired of the violence, sick and tired of the radicalism, and they want — and they want a better life.

    And the fundamental question is, will the government respond to the demands of the people? And if the government doesn't demand or respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government.


    Earlier this week, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters he thought Maliki should quit. He and the senior Republican on the committee, Senator John Warner of Virginia, recently visited Iraq to assess the surge. Levin said the Iraqi government was facing its last chance to straighten out the political situation in Baghdad.

    In a joint statement, Warner and Levin said, "In all of our meetings, we witnessed a great deal of apprehension regarding the capabilities of the current Iraqi government to shed its sectarian biases and act in a unifying manner."

    Meeting in Damascus today with the Syrian president, the Iraqi prime minister fired back.

  • NOURI AL-MALIKI, Prime Minister, Iraq (through translator):

    The American administration is full of contrasts and petty politics. We see that from recent criticisms and undiplomatic statements about us, which don't show proper respect. Our government is legal — the Iraqis choose it — and Americans have no right to place timetables on it or any other restrictions.


    Despite the leaders' meetings and frequent phone calls, Washington and Baghdad have often been at odds since Maliki, a Shiite, took office in May last year.


    He's a strong leader who wants a free and democratic Iraq to succeed. The United States is determined to help him achieve that goal.