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King: U.S. wants to speed transition in Iraq

CNN White House Correspondent John King
CNN White House Correspondent John King

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On the Scene
John King
Paul Bremer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, has rushed back to Washington for urgent talks with Bush administration officials about the situation in Iraq, and the efforts to speed up the political transition in the country.

CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King discussed the talks.

KING: President Bush led a National Security Council meeting Wednesday in the White House situation room, which is not at all unusual. A routine schedule.

But what is unusual is the man at center stage in today's meeting. He is Paul Bremer -- Ambassador Paul Bremer, the president's point man, the civilian administrator of Iraq since he was appointed by President Bush back in July.

He was summoned back to Washington for some urgent discussions about trying to accelerate the political transition in Iraq.

Ambassador Bremer was involved in a number of lengthy meetings at the White House yesterday and after the full national security meeting, he will sit down with the president and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The White House believes accelerating the political transition is critical to improving what the CIA says could become a fast deteriorating security situation.

Now the administration says it's possible the president will make some key decisions today on revamping the policy in Iraq and speeding up that transition.

Here are the key debating points for the national security council session this morning:

No. 1, they want at the White House to accelerate the hand-over of political power to the Iraqis from the coalition provisional authority. The way to do that is to speed up the writing of a constitution and the timetable for Iraqi elections. There is a December 15th deadline at the United Nations to present that timetable.

Now some in the administration want the White House, the president, to consider writing an interim Iraqi constitution, and evennaming an interim Iraqi appointed leader. That is a controversial proposal on the table. Again, [there] could [be] a decision today.

The goal, several officials tell us, is to light a fire under the Iraqi Governing Council.

The White House and others say it is moving too slowly toward writing a constitution, toward settling ethnic and other differences.

As the administration debates all this, and there is disagreement within the Bush team, the president yesterday in a speech here in Washington said the bottom line in his view was this, that the United States could not fail the test in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, Ambassador Bremer was rushed back to Washington for these urgent consultations. We are told in addition to the national security council meeting today, he will have some separate time here at the White House with the president, Vice President [Dick] Cheney and other senior officials. He is also expected to spend some time over at the Pentagon.

When will he return to Iraq and his important work there, including implementing any new decisions that might be made? A top aide tells us within the next 36 hours, perhaps as early as tonight, depending on whether decisions are made today or whether these talks continue tomorrow.

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