WASHINGTON – President Bush's hour-long meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Tuesday yielded familiar White House assurances that Iraq's leaders are making progress on unifying their country.
The session did not, however, add any clarity about when that may happen.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Bush made it clear how important it is for Iraq's parliament to get its work done, but issued no ultimatum.
Bush often prods Iraq's leadership to make good on its promises of political reconciliation.
"Given that Iraq is a sovereign country, the president can push," Perino said. "He did not give them a specific deadline."
Bush's decision to send thousands more troops into Iraq early this year was intended to give Iraqi leaders space to pass key legislation and move closer to taking control of their country.
Iraqi leaders are working on three laws considered vital to political stability: equitable distribution of oil revenues, provincial elections, and permission for members of Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath Party to take part in the new government. Bush says the work is complex and leaders are committed to it.
In the U.S., lawmakers and the public have grown tired of waiting as the U.S. death toll in Iraq grows.
"I understand the frustration and the impatience," Perino said. "But I think that they're moving in the right direction." She said Talabani offered no time frames, but that "he was hopeful. He said that he thought that there was a good political environment right now."
Bush and Talabani did not make comments or take questions from reporters.
The leaders never discussed the uproar involving the security firm Blackwater, Perino said. Guards from the private security company, while protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy on Sept. 16, were involved in a shoot-out that left 11 Iraqis dead. The incident has complicated U.S.-Iraqi relations.
Perino said the Blackwater incident did not come up, probably because it is under investigation by governments of both countries.
Blackwater's chairman strongly defended his private security company on Tuesday in testimony on Capitol Hill. Asked if Bush is satisfied with the way Blackwater is conducting itself, Perino said: "I don't think that he has any reason to believe that they're not at the moment conducting themselves appropriately."