Bush Turns from NATO and Afghanistan to Iraq President Bush wraps up the NATO summit in Latvia, where the focus has been on Afghanistan, and heads to Jordan for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
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Bush Turns from NATO and Afghanistan to Iraq

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Bush Turns from NATO and Afghanistan to Iraq

Bush Turns from NATO and Afghanistan to Iraq

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm John Ydstie sitting in for Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

President Bush today begins two days of meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. During the talks in the Jordanian capital Amman, Mr. Bush is expected to press Maliki for answers about how he plans to secure his country. Before heading to Jordan the president wraps up his participation in a NATO summit in the Baltic state of Latvia.

NPR's David Greene is covering the president's trip and he joins us from Riga, Latvia. And, David, about this NATO meeting, the leaders were trying to work out problems that NATO troops are facing in Afghanistan, and I gather they made some progress.

DAVID GREENE: Well they say they did, Renee, and we may not know, though, until we see what happens on the ground in Afghanistan. If we step back and think about some of the problems - there has been some real frustration on the part of countries like Britain, the U.S. and Canada. They've been doing some of the heavy fighting in the south of Afghanistan. Other countries have kept their troops restricted to safer zones. And that was one of the problems they were trying to work out. What NATO officials say is that there is some agreement that a larger number of the 32,000 NATO troops will be available to fight anywhere in the country.

But there are still some serious questions remaining. For example, nation's like Italy and Germany say that their troops can be moved only in emergencies, and we'll have to see what is defined as an emergency and when those troops can actually move.

MONTAGNE: So let's turn now to the question of Iraq. Take us through the president's meetings upcoming in Jordan.

GREENE: Well the president's going to arrive in Amman later today, and he plans to have dinner with Prime Minister Maliki as well as King Abdullah of Jordan. The king has become involved in Iraq diplomacy recently. He actually met this week with a leading Sunni leader from Iraq who has been accused by the government in Baghdad of inciting terrorism. But he sat down with King Abdullah, and now the king will be hosting Maliki and Mr. Bush at this dinner today, and then Mr. Bush will spend the night at a hotel in Amman and White House officials say he'll resume the talks with Maliki tomorrow.

MONTAGNE: Well the talks are getting a lot of attention. Are there expectations of any major announcements?

GREENE: You're right about the attention. Many, if not all of the major television networks from the U.S. are actually sending their anchors to Amman, which as you know could mean blanket news coverage. The White House, though, is still saying they don't expect any major announcements. Mr. Bush has insisted he won't reduce U.S. troop levels until the mission is complete. And White House aides say in fact the two leaders may discuss increasing U.S. troop levels in Baghdad for a time to try to calm down the violence.

But the White House makes clear that the president wants to put some pressure on Maliki in this meeting. Mr. Bush has said himself in recent days on this trip that he wants Maliki to tell him face-to-face what his plan is to deal with the violence in his country. And the White House is very blunt in saying that Maliki does not have the capability right now to secure his own country and that the U.S. wants to figure out how to help.

MONTAGNE: David, The New York Times this morning is reporting on a classified memo by President Bush's national security adviser, and this memo suggests pretty serious doubts about whether Prime Minister Maliki can sort of handle the job there.

GREENE: It really does. The surfacing of that memo was a surprise, and White House officials were dealing with it today in Riga. Steve Hadley, the national security adviser, wrote it after going to Baghdad earlier this month. And Hadley really called Maliki's leadership into question. He wrote that the reality on the streets of Baghdad seems to be that Maliki is either ignorant of what's going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turning his good intentions into actions.

And one of the most striking things in the memo, Hadley raises the possibility that Maliki's government is trying to concentrate Shiite power at the expense of Sunnis. And if that were true, that would obviously suggest the government may actually be contributing to sectarian divisions rather than trying to end them. And the memo suggests Maliki's government might be stopping military action against Shiite targets, encouraging them against Sunnis. Now White House officials insist that the president still has confidence in Maliki going into this meeting, but this has added a whole new context to these talks in Jordan.

MONTAGNE: David, thanks very much.

GREENE: My pleasure, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's David Greene traveling with President Bush in Riga, Latvia.

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