WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- President Bush said last night that he will lay out a plan for the U.S. strategy in Iraq next week and that settling the turmoil between Israel and the Palestinians would ease the way for a broader solution to conflicts in the region.
"I'll be ready to outline a strategy that will help the Iraqis achieve the objective of a country that can govern, sustain and defend itself sometime next week," Bush said at a news conference after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House. "I've still got consultations to go through."
Late last year, the president ordered a strategy review as sectarian violence continued to escalate in Iraq and local forces still were unable to take more responsibility for the country's security.
Among the options Bush is considering is boosting the number of U.S. troops in Iraq from the current 140,000. Proposals for an increase range from 8,000 more troops to as many as 30,000. The president gave no hint about what direction he favors.
"I will want to make sure that the mission is clear and specific and can be accomplished," he said.
Any step that would send more U.S. troops to Iraq is likely to face opposition from congressional Democrats and some Republicans.
Bush linked the effort to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace to a resolution of other issues, including instability in Lebanon. He said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to the region soon, and he agreed to a suggestion from Merkel that a meeting of the so-called Quartet working on the peace process be convened. The Quartet is composed of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.
"When we solve that problem, a lot of other problems will be easier to solve," Bush said.
The president said he doesn't want to expand the mandate of the Quartet beyond the Israel-Palestinians issue.
"We ought to try, time and again, to achieve some results in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Merkel said through a translator.
Earlier in the day, Bush spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on a secure video hookup for almost two hours. The president said he told the prime minister that he was looking at whether al-Maliki "has the will necessary" to take steps to quell the violence and bring about a political reconciliation.