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Bush considering Rumsfeld options on Iraq

By Tabassum ZakariaSun Dec 3, 2:34 PM ET

President George W. Bush is considering a "laundry list" of options for Iraq that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested before resigning and agrees progress has been too slow, a senior White House official said on Sunday.

Rumsfeld told the White House in a classified memo last month, two days before he resigned, that the U.S. military's role in Iraq was not working well and it was "time for a major adjustment," including possible troop reductions.

The memo, first reported by The New York Times, would be considered by Bush as he decides on Iraq policy changes, said Stephen Hadley, White House national security adviser.

"What Secretary Rumsfeld did, I think very helpfully, was put together a sort of laundry list of ideas," Hadley said on ABC's "This Week."

Bush agrees with Rumsfeld "that things are not proceeding well enough or fast enough in Iraq. We have to make some changes, we need a new way forward in Iraq, and that's what this policy review is all about," Hadley said.

In addition to an internal government review, Bush will look at recommendations from the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker that will release its report on Wednesday.

The views of Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, and the Iraqi government's goals, will also be factors as Bush makes decisions over the coming weeks.

"All of these things he will put together in a way forward on Iraq," said Hadley, who accompanied Bush last week to Jordan for a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

More than 2,800 American troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The United Nations estimated a record 3,700 civilian deaths in October, which the Iraqi government said was an exaggeration.

The unpopular Iraq war gave election wins in November to Democrats who will take control of Congress from Bush's Republican Party in January. Rumsfeld's resignation was announced the day after the elections.

His memo suggested "modest" troop withdrawals to spur the Iraqi government into taking charge, quickly reducing the number of U.S. bases in Iraq, adding trainers, and putting "substantial" U.S. forces near borders with Syria and Iran.

Members of Congress differ on what steps to take -- some Democrats call for withdrawing troops and some Republicans advocate increasing U.S. forces.

"We need more troops, not less. The Iraqi people need some breathing space from this violence," Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting record), a South Carolina Republican, said on "Fox News Sunday."

Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), a Delaware Democrat who will be Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman next year, said a political solution was required, and the situation was past "where we could put in the number of forces that could fundamentally change things."

Bush has been adamant that U.S. troops would not leave until Iraqi forces can take over security, and last week rejected suggestions that he was seeking a "graceful exit."

Maliki, after his meeting with Bush, said Iraqi forces would be able to take over security by June 2007.

"It's an ambitious goal," Hadley said on CBS' "Face the Nation," but sidestepped questions on whether it was reachable. "We're going to work toward it."

Bush will meet with a leader of Iraq's majority Shi'ites, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, on Monday at the White House, and with Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, next month.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro)

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