Just days before the influential Iraq study group publishes its conclusions, an increasingly under-pressure and isolated George W. Bush met with one of the most powerful Shia leaders in Iraq. “I told him that we are not satisfied with the pace of progress in Iraq and that we want to continue to work with the sovereign government of Iraq.”, Bush told reporters at the White House.
In reply, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, who has strong links with Iran, opposed any outside interference in the country: “We believe that the Iraqi issue should be solved by the Iraqis, with the help of friends everywhere. But we reject any attempts to have a regional or international role in solving the Iraqi issue. We cannot bypass the political process. Iraq should be in a position to solve Iraqi problems.”
The bodies of 52 more victims of Iraq’s spiralling sectarian violence were discovered in Baghdad on Monday. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has prompted sharp criticism by defining the situation as “worse” than civil war. Analysts say Bush’s overture to high-profile Iraqi politicians like Hakim is an attempt to unite them behind the struggling Iraqi administration.