WASHINGTON - 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.
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 wanted to succeed," the president said Thursday. "I do understand that progress is not as rapid as I had hoped."
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.
Blair wholeheartedly supported 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 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, 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.