- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

11:34 a.m.

President Bush, standing alongside chief Iraq war ally Tony Blair of Britain, asserted today that success in Iraq depends on victory over extremists across the “broader Middle East.”

“It’s a tough time and it’s a difficult moment for America and Great Britain and the task before us is daunting,” Mr. Bush said a day after a bipartisan commission said his war policies have failed and called for a change in strategy.

The British prime minister, who has stood shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Bush since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, said he welcomed the conclusions of the Iraq Study Group despite its criticism of past policies.

It “offers a strong way forward,” Mr. Blair said. He said “the consequences of failure are severe.”

Mr. Bush appeared to endorse the panel’s conclusion that any resolution of the Iraq conflict is tied to reducing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and across the broader Middle East - a position Mr. Blair has long held.

But in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he disagreed with the advisory group’s linkage. He told a news conference that conditions were not ripe to reopen long-dormant talks with Syria.

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