While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the U.S. will join leaders from Iraq, Iran and Syria for diplomatic talks, Democrats searched for ways to slow future troop deployments and grilled White House officials about the total cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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From Washington to the hills of Afghanistan, U.S. officials today searched for ways to break through wartime deadlocks on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raised the stakes on the diplomatic front, announcing the U.S. will join with leaders from Iraq and the region for a meeting in Baghdad.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. Secretary of State: We hope that all governments will seize this opportunity to improve their relations with Iraq and to work for peace and stability in the region.
It remained unclear whether U.S. officials will meet face to face with representatives from Iran and Syria. If that happens, it will represent a new approach for an administration that, as recently as last December, has resisted direct negotiations with either nation.
GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: If people come to the table to discuss Iraq, they need to come understanding their responsibilities to not fund terrorists, to help this young democracy survive, to help with the economics of the country.
And if people are not committed, if Syria and Iran is not committed to that concept, then they shouldn't bother to show up.
But today, Rice stressed that the Iraqis are the ones taking the lead in the new effort.
I'm pleased that the government of Iraq is launching this new diplomatic initiative and that we will be able to support it and participate in it.
The violence occurring within the country has a decided impact on Iraq's neighbors, and Iraq's neighbors, as well as the international community, have a clear role to play in supporting the Iraqi government's efforts to promote peace and national reconciliation within the country.