Friday, June 17, 2005

Bush Seeks to Calm Anxieties About Iraq on Yahoo! News

By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press WriterThu Jun 16, 9:35 PM ET

Facing growing pressure to bring troops home from Iraq, President Bush is launching a public relations campaign to try to calm anxieties about the war.

Bush scheduled a major address for June 28, the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition to Iraqis. Four days before that, he will meet at the White House with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who heads the transitional government chosen after January elections.

The president also plans a series of radio addresses and appearances outside Washington. He will emphasize the importance of democracy in Iraq and elsewhere when he meets with fellow world leaders in Gleneagles, Scotland, in July, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

The president's campaign comes as the U.S. death toll in Iraq has climbed above 1,700. A relentless wave of suicide bombings, kidnappings and beheadings has killed at least 1,070 just since al-Jaafari's government was announced April 28.

"The president recognizes that this is a concern that's on the minds of the American people," McClellan said. "That's why he's going to sharpen his focus, spending more time talking about the progress that's being made on the ground — there's significant progress that has been made in a short period of time — the dangers that remain and that lie ahead, as well as our strategy for victory in Iraq."

A few Republicans have broken ranks with the White House on Iraq, supporting a resolution that calls for Bush to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by Oct. 1, 2006. "After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and discussion," said one sponsor, Rep. Walter Jones (news, bio, voting record), R-N.C., who voted for the war.

Many GOP lawmakers also have been reluctant to embrace Bush's signature second-term domestic issue — allowing younger workers to set up private investment accounts with part of their Social Security taxes.

But the president has shown no public evidence yet of backing down and has traveled the country weekly — and will again next week — to campaign for his proposals.

Still, at a time when Bush intended to be concentrating primarily on his domestic agenda, he finds himself shifting emphasis to Iraq.

Foreign policy has typically given Bush his highest scores with the public, but that has changed. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll this month found just 41 percent of adults supported his handling of the Iraq war — an all-time low. In addition, a Gallup poll released Monday found that six in 10 Americans say they think the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq.

As with his new domestic agenda sales job, Bush plans to offer no policy changes on Iraq.

One development, though, could throw Bush completely off-stride. The Supreme Court's first vacancy in over a decade could come by the end of the month, and the fierce nomination battle that would immediate

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