Special report: Tension accelerates in
by Li Xuejun
WASHINGTON, July 25 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President George
W. Bush, through his talks and a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime
Minister Nuri al-Maliki in the White House on Tuesday, has found that they
differ on many issues.
Their clear points of difference, some of them
profound, could potentially pose a new challenge to the Bush administration,
which has already been facing an uphill struggle in a troubled Iraq.
Bush has hailed Maliki's win in the "free and fair"
elections held since the downfall of the Saddam Hussein regime, and has eagerly
wanted to show progress in Iraq through the visit by Maliki.
"I just had a very constructive meeting with the
leader of a government that has been chosen by the Iraqi people in free and fair
elections," Bush said at the beginning of his joint press conference with
While admitting that there were still significant
challenges to face, Bush insisted that Iraq was making progress.
"We still face challenges in Baghdad, yet we see
progress elsewhere in Iraq. Iraqi security forces are growing in strength and
capability, and recently a key province in southern Iraq was transferred to full
Iraqi civilian control," Bush noted.
The transfer of southern Muthanna Province to Iraqi
control was the beginning of the handover of other provinces to full Iraqi
jurisdiction, Bush added.
However, Bush's optimism has been countered and
eroded by the continuous suicide bombings and shootings in Iraq, especially in
Days before Maliki's visit to Washington, there were
a spate of attacks in Iraq's capital. Bombers killed at least 64 people in
Baghdad on Sunday, marking one of the bloodiest day in the city since the start
of this year.
A United Nations report released earlier this month
painted a bleak picture for Iraq's security situation by declaring that at least
50,000 people have been killed since the Iraq war started in2003 and over 5,800
people were killed in May and June alone. Such heavy civilian casualties have
raised questions about the ability of U.S.-trained Iraqi police to cope with
To make things worse, Bush found that he had some
sharp disagreements with his Iraqi guest during their talks.
According to a report by the New York Times on
Tuesday, the Iraqi government headed by Maliki has requested that Bush cancel
the immunity under which American troops operate in Iraq in order to allow them
to be tried under Iraq law, but this is being strongly rejected by Washington;
Maliki also wants the Bush administration to grant amnesty to those Sunnis who
have attacked U.S. troops in Iraq, but this too met with fervent opposition from
the Bush administration.
Moreover, Maliki has condemned Israel's military
action in Lebanon and wants to maintain good ties with Iran, a country branded
by the United States as one member of the "axis of evil."
"The prime minister and I spent time talking about
Lebanon, and we had a frank exchange of views on this situation," Bush said
during the joint press conference with Maliki, using diplomatic wording for what
amounted to a sharp disagreement behind closed doors.
Maliki said that he called for an immediate
cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah, although the Bush
administration has repeatedly resisted the call for an immediate cease-fire.
The growing differences between Iraqi and American
policies reflect an increasing disenchantment with American power among
politicians and ordinary Iraqis, the New York Times report said, adding that
Maliki, as a Shiite, has been speaking for both Iraqi politicians and ordinary
people in order to gain more popular support.
It seems that further disagreement could appear
between the Bush administration and the Maliki government in the future, and
that would be likely to make the U.S. strategy for Iraq more difficult to
implement, and success in Iraq a more distant dream. Enditem