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Bush Discusses Iraq Options With Top Advisers

CRAWFORD, Tex., Dec. 28 -- After meeting with his top military and diplomatic advisers at his Texas ranch, the president said today that his administration was making "good progress" crafting a revised Iraq strategy. But Mr. Bush said he intends to consult with Congress when he returns to Washington next week before presenting his plan to the nation.

"I fully understand it’s important to have both Republicans and Democrats understanding the importance of this mission," Mr. Bush said, speaking to reporters following a three-hour meeting. "It’s important for the American people to understand success in Iraq is vital for our own security."

The meeting, according to a senior administration official, focused on the security, economic and political situation in Iraq. But the bulk of the discussions focused on security in Iraq and the need to send more American troops to Baghdad, according to the official, who insisted on anonymity as a condition of discussing internal White House thinking.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emerged from the meeting with the president, who spoke briefly to reporters. National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and his top deputy, J.D. Crouch, also attended the meeting and joined the principals for a working lunch at the ranch.

The White House initially intended to announce a new Iraq policy before Christmas, but delayed those plans so the president could consider a range of diverging views inside his administration. For weeks, Mr. Bush’s advisers have been locked in internal debates about how to proceed in Iraq, but it was an open question whether today’s meeting brought clarity to the discussions.

"I’ve got more consultation to do until I talk to the country about the plan," said Mr. Bush, who did not elaborate or take questions from reporters.

Mr. Bush said he received a briefing from Mr. Gates, his new defense secretary, and General Pace, who recently returned from Iraq. The White House said the president did not want to offer his new plan for Iraq before Mr. Gates had an opportunity to study conditions on the ground in Iraq.

"It’s an important part of coming to closure on a way forward in Iraq that will help us achieve our objective," Mr. Bush said, "which is a country that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself."

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