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'The question is, how do we find the right way forward?'

Excerpts of comments by Bush, Blair on Iraq report

Excerpts from the joint White House press conference yesterday by President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.

Iraq Study Group report
President Bush: The thing I liked about the Baker-Hamilton report is it discussed the way forward in Iraq. And I believe we need a new approach. And that's why I've tasked the Pentagon to analyze the way forward. . . .

Baker-Hamilton is a really important part of our considerations. But we want to make sure the military gets their point of view in. After all, a lot of what we're doing is a military operation. I want to make sure the State Department is able to help us analyze the strategy to make sure that we've got the right political emphasis, not only inside Iraq but outside Iraq.

Prime Minister Blair: It offers a strong way forward. I think it is important now we concentrate on the elements that are necessary to make sure that we succeed, because the consequences of failure are severe. And I believe this is a mission we have to succeed in and we can succeed in. . . .

The issues that the report raises -- I mean, these aren't issues that, obviously, no one has ever thought of; these aren't issues that haven't been part of the continual discussion and debate and iteration within the coalition and, indeed, between us and the Iraqi government. But those essential elements we want to make sure, in the light of the changing situation that there is there, that, one, we have the Iraqi government able to operate effectively, but in a non-sectarian way, because that's what we began with.

The situation in Iraq
Blair: I think the analysis of the situation is not really in dispute. The question is, how do we find the right way forward? And what we've got at the moment is something that is at one level very simple to describe, but at another level very profound and difficult to deal with -- and that is that the outside extremists are linking up with internal extremists, basically to create the circumstances of sectarianism, where it's very, very difficult then for democracy and ordinary institutions to function.

Bush: Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir. I talk to families who die. I understand there's sectarian violence. . . . I also believe we're going to succeed. I believe we'll prevail. And we want our combat troops out as quick as possible. We want the Iraqis taking the fight. But it's very important to be -- as we design programs -- to be flexible and realistic. And as the report said -- I don't -- got the exact words, but it was along the lines of depending upon conditions, I believe is what the qualifier was. And I thought that made a lot of sense. I've always said we'd like our troops out as fast as possible. I think that's an important goal. . . .

On the other hand, our commanders will be making recommendations based upon whether or not we're achieving our stated objective. And the objective, I repeat, is a government which can sustain, govern, and defend itself -- free government of Iraq that can do that -- and will be an ally in this movement -- against this movement that is threatening peace and stability.

SOURCE: The White House

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