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Bush 'Open To Any Suggestions' On Iraq

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (foreground) stepped down in the immediate aftermath of the Republicans' electoral defeat (epa) WASHINGTON, November 9, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- President George W. Bush today signaled for what may be the first time in his presidency that he is open to hearing opposing views on his policy in Iraq.

"I am open to any idea or suggestion that will help us achieve our goals of defeating the terrorists and ensuring that Iraq's democratic government succeeds," Bush said.

The U.S. president struck a bipartisan note at a brief White House appearance this morning after a cabinet meeting. Speaking quickly from a prepared text, Bush acknowledged that U.S. voters voted on November 7 for a new Congress and congratulated Democratic leaders on their victory.

"Earlier this week, the American people went to the polls and they cast their ballots for a new Congress," Bush said. "The American people made their decision. I respect the results and so does my cabinet."

One of the biggest looming battles between Bush and new Democratic members of Congress is his policy in Iraq.

Yesterday, Bush made a concession to the new political balance of power by replacing his embattled secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, with former CIA director Robert Gates.

Today he repeated his belief that Iraq is central to the so-called war on terror.

"One of the most important challenges facing our country is the war on terror, and Iraq is the central front in this war," Bush said. "Our country now has more than 149,000 men and women serving bravely in that country. Whatever party we come from, we all have a responsibility to ensure that these troops have the resources and support they need to prevail."

Bush made his remarks just moments before a lunch meeting with the legislator who will be the next speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. On November 10, he will meet with Democratic leaders from the Senate.

"We'll discuss the way forward for our country, and I am going to tell them what I just told our cabinet. It is our responsibility to put the elections behind us and work together on the great issues facing America," the president said.

Bush also urged Congress -- which until January remains controlled by Republican legislators -- to finish their work quickly on spending bills, his administration’s terrorist-surveillance act, and energy legislation.

And he said that he had instructed members of his cabinet to offer the more than 30 newly elected members of Congress who will arrive in Washington this winter the assistance they need to do their jobs.

Meanwhile, Republican George Allen today conceded defeat in the Senate election in the state of Virginia, confirming that the Democrats will hold majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives when the 110th Congress convenes in January.

RFE/RL Iraq Report

RFE/RL Iraq Report

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