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Bush Turns To Congress For Ideas On Iraq

Searching for a new approach to the unpopular war in Iraq, President Bush is turning to leaders of Congress and awaiting ideas from his national security team before announcing his decisions in a speech expected before Christmas.

Meanwhile, the president's approval rating on Iraq has slumped to a new low.

Just 27 percent of those questioned in a new AP-Ipsos poll approve of the way he's handling the war. At the same time, dissatisfaction has climbed to an all-time high of 71 percent.

The president planned to meet on Friday with Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress, part of a parade of senior lawmakers making their way through the West Wing this week.

"I do know that we have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed," the president said Thursday. "I do understand that progress is not as rapid as I had hoped."

Ohio State University's John Mueller, who's an authority on presidents and public opinion, said Mr. Bush's support is continuing to erode and there no reason to think it can be turned around.

The poll also indicates nearly two-thirds of the American people do not think Iraq is going to end up with a stable, democratic government. Only nine percent think the Iraq war will end with a clear-cut victory.

The survey was taken from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

On Thursday, Mr. Bush, at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, distanced himself from some main recommendations of the Iraq Study Group's proposals for reshaping his policy. The president objected to talks with Iran and Syria and refused to endorse a major troop withdrawal.

However, in an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, Blair said he thought engaging Iran and Syria was a possibility.

"I think that provided Iran and Syria come in order to help, I think people would want them as part of this group," Blair told Couric.

Blair, though, wholeheartedly supported Mr. Bush's determination to fight to victory in Iraq and spread democracy across the Middle East.

"The vision is absolutely correct," Blair said at a news conference where the two leaders agreed, nevertheless, on a need for new approaches in Iraq.

When a British reporter suggested Mr. Bush was denying even to himself how bad things are, the president tartly replied, "It's bad in Iraq. That help?"

Under intense pressure to take a new direction, Mr. Bush is expected to make a major speech about Iraq before Christmas. He said his decisions will be based on the recommendations of separate studies from the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council as well as the Iraq Study Group.

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