Bush may change Iraq policy sooner than later

President Bush will take weeks rather than months to start making changes in Iraq policy after he receives high-level recommendations on the conduct of the war, his national security adviser said on Thursday.

Speaking after Bush held crisis talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Jordan, Stephen Hadley, Bush’s national security adviser, said: "There is a real sense of urgency but there is not a sense of panic."

Bush, who is under heavy pressure to change course in the unpopular war, strongly backed Maliki on Thursday, saying Iraqi forces would be trained faster to take over security and Washington was not seeking a "graceful exit" for U.S. troops.

Bush spoke after reports an independent, bipartisan group will recommend the U.S. military shift from a combat to a support role in Iraq but will not propose a timetable for withdrawal.

The report by a commission co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker, will be released next Wednesday, and is among a series of high-level reviews being prepared for Bush.

Asked when Bush would start making decisions on Iraq policy after receiving the reports, Hadley told reporters aboard Air Force One enroute to Washington: "I think probably it’s going to be weeks rather than months. It’s going to be when the president is comfortable."


© Reuters 2006