Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dubya chickens out as leaked memo surfaces

Critical memo clouds canceled Bush, al-Maliki meeting

By Peter Wallsten and Solomon Moore, Times Staff Writer
5:49 PM PST, November 29, 2006

AMMAN, Jordan -- A highly anticipated meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Bush was abruptly canceled Wednesday, hours after the disclosure of a White House memo questioning al-Maliki's ability to pacify his country, and after a Shiite bloc announced a boycott of the Baghdad government.

The two leaders were scheduled to go ahead with a breakfast and joint news conference Thursday morning before Bush returns to Washington, but Wednesday's developments threatened to spoil a summit that administration officials had hoped would demonstrate progress in devising strategies for stemming civil strife in Iraq.

Instead, White House officials spent the day on the defensive -- insisting they had faith in al-Maliki despite the harsh content of the leaked memo, and struggling to explain why a meeting that had been on the president's calendar for days was suddenly scrubbed.

Senior Bush aides offered at least four explanations for the cancellation -- finally dispatching a more junior official to tell reporters late Wednesday that al-Maliki and Jordan's King Abdullah II had decided mutually that a three-way conversation was not necessary.

Following is the text of a Nov. 8 memorandum prepared for cabinet-level officials by Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, and his aides on the National Security Council. The five-page document, classified secret, was read and transcribed by The New York Times

Leaked Memo

Mystery of the missing ambassador is solved in leaked memo...

One of the things mentioned in the document was that the US would encourage Zal (Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador) to move into the background and let Maliki take more credit for positive developments. (We want Maliki to exert his authority — and demonstrate to Iraqis that he is a strong leader — by taking action against extremists, not by pushing back on the United States and the Coalition.);


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