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Old Alliance Discusses New Strategy for Iraq
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US President George W. Bush, standing alongside chief Iraq War ally Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, asserted Thursday that success in Iraq depends on victory over extremists across the "broader Middle East."

"It's a tough time and its a difficult moment for America and Great Britain and the task before us is daunting," Bush said at a joint press conference with Blair.

Bush said he will consider the recommendations put forward by the Iraq Study Group, and said the situation in Iraq is "grave and deteriorating," adding that not every recommendation made in the ISG report, released Wednesday, would be accepted.

For his part, Blair said the report offered a "strong way forward."

"I think it is important now we concentrate the elements that are necessary to make sure that we succeed -- because the consequences of failure are severe," he said.

Apart from Iraq, Bush also disclosed that Blair would soon visit the Middle East on a peace mission.

"Prime Minister Blair informed me that he will be heading to the Middle East soon, to talk to both the Israelis and the Palestinians," Bush said.

"I support the mission, because it's important for us to advance the cause of two states living side by side in peace and helping both parties eliminate the obstacles that prevent an agreement from being reached," Bush said.

It is important that "everything be done in the wider Middle East to bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians," Blair said.

"I believe that by moving this forward, we send a very strong signal, not just to the region but to the whole of the world that we are even-handed and just in the application of our values," Blair added.

Bush also urged Iran to "verifiably" suspend uranium enrichment program if wanting to engage in direct talks with the United States.

The meeting between Bush and Blair came with Iraq sliding towards civil war and the Iraq Study Group report calling for a fundamentally different approach in the Iraq strategy.

Blair has been the most important ally of the United States in the Iraq war with Britain having 9,000 soldiers stationed in Iraq.

(Xinhua News Agency December 8, 2006)

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