Per Request, Bush Will Move Troops into Baghdad

President Bush agrees to reassign more of the U.S. forces in Iraq to provide security in Baghdad, a key request from visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The two spoke briefly to reporters after their morning meeting.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Iraq's Prime Minster, Nouri al-Maliki, is in Washington today. He met with President Bush at the White House and won a promise that U.S. forces will re-deploy to help secure Baghdad. President Bush called the situation in Baghdad terrible and the Iraqi Prime Minster said civilian casualties there are averaging 100 a day. The two men also aired their clear differences over the fighting in southern Lebanon.

NPR's David Greene reports from the White House.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

The first thing you noticed if you walked by the White House today was the Iraqi flag flying above Blair House, the building across Pennsylvania Avenue where foreign leaders typically stay.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: It's remarkable. Historical. A moment, as far as I'm concerned, to welcome the freely elected leader of Iraq to the White House.

GREENE: Any effort by President Bush to embrace the symbolism of this day, though, collided with a hard reality. Maliki's capital, Baghdad, has descended into some of the worst violence since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The American president and the Iraqi Prime Minster met in the Oval Office and spoke to reporters afterwards, Maliki through an interpreter.

Prime Minster NOURI AL-MALIKI (Iraq): (Through translator) We have discussed with President Bush clearly and frankly all the current challenges.

GREENE: Clearly and frankly are often diplomatic code for saying the talks were tense and we had disagreements. The leaders said they did finalize a plan to bring more U.S. troops into Baghdad to help deal with the violence. The Pentagon had spoken of reducing troop levels by year's end and Mr. Bush often likes to say as Iraqi forces stand up, U.S. forces stand down. Now U.S. forces will be refocusing on the capital, where sectarian killings have spiked this month. President Bush had this to say.

President BUSH: Obviously, the violence in Baghdad is still terrible and therefore there needs to be more troops. In other words, the commander said, what more can we do? How best to address the conditions on the ground. And they have recommended, as a result of working with the Prime Minster based upon his recommendation, that we increase the number of U.S. troops in Baghdad alongside of Iraqi troops and we're going to do that.

GREENE: The U.S. troops will come from other postings in Iraq. Maliki said he's confident in the new plan. God willing, he said, there will be no civil war in his country.

But Maliki's arrival in Washington also coincides with renewed fighting on Israel's borders and on that struggle, the two leaders are not in sync. This morning, Mr. Bush said again that there must be a long-term solution that will guarantee Hezbollah can no longer threaten Israel from Lebanon, likening Hezbollah to the insurgents Maliki is fighting in Iraq.

President BUSH: I believe that Iraq in some ways faces the same difficulty, and that is a new democracy's emerging and there are people who are willing to use terrorist techniques to stop it. It's what the murder's all about.

GREENE: But Maliki had a different view, insisting that the first step must be a ceasefire to stop the violence.

Prime Minster MALIKI: The importance thing here is what we're trying to do is to stop the killing and the destruction. And then we leave the room and the way for the international and diplomatic efforts and international organization to play the role, to be there.

GREENE: It was another reminder that as democratically elected leaders in the Middle East stand up, they won't always agree with the United States.

David Greene, NPR News, the White House.

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