Washington, 14 November 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush says his administration is encouraging the Iraqi people to assume more responsibility in governing their country. Bush said yesterday he wants expanded self-rule in Iraq. His national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said Iraqis are ready to assume more authority faster than previously envisioned. Rice said U.S. Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer is now considering ways to shift power to Iraqis before a formal constitution is written. An early transfer of power was previously rejected by the United States in favor of having the U.S.-established Iraqi Governing Council write a constitution, then hold elections before governing would be transferred. Secretary of State Colin Powell also addressed the issue: "There has been concern expressed that the time required to write a constitution, if you are going to go through an election process to determine who should be on that constitutional writing commission, could eat up a great deal of time, more time than we think can be allowed before we start transferring sovereignty back. And so we are trying to work through those concerns and see if there's a way to work through them or to find alternatives that would speed up the process."
The U.S. administration also worked to retain support among coalition partners for the occupation after an attack this week that killed 18 Italians at a military-police base in southern Iraq. Bush spoke by telephone with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The White House said the two leaders "reaffirmed their strong commitment to staying the course."