WASHINGTON – President Bush said Thursday that he will announce his decision next week about how to proceed with the nearly four-year-old Iraq war, including whether to bolster existing forces with more troops.
"One thing is for certain: I will want to make sure the mission is clear and specific and can be accomplished," Bush said.
Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke on a secure video hookup for nearly two hours — a sign the president was close to announcing his new strategy. The White House said it could be their last conversation before Bush details his decisions in a major speech.
Bush said he sought assurances from al-Maliki that he possessed the will to do the hard work necessary to protect Iraqis against rising sectarian violence.
"I believe Prime Minister Maliki has the will necessary to make the tough decisions," the president said.
"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," the president said. "I've still got consultations to go through." Some members of Congress have been invited to the White House on Friday for discussions about Iraq.
The president said he talked with the prime minister about the final moments of Saddam's life, and about the taunting captured on an unauthorized video before the hanging. The White House has been reluctant to criticize the proceedings, which have been condemned by some world leaders as deplorable.
"My personal reaction is that Saddam Hussein was given a trial that he was unwilling to give the thousands of people he killed," Bush said. "He was given a fair trial — something he was unwilling to give thousands of Iraqi citizens who he brutalized."
"I wish, obviously, that the proceedings had gone on in a more dignified way," Bush said. "But, nevertheless, he was given justice. The thousands of people he killed were not."
The Associated Press contributed to this report