WASHINGTON – President Bush pledged not to "prejudge" a report on strategies for a war-torn Iraq due next month after meeting with members of a bipartisan panel on Monday.
"I'm not sure what the report is going to say. I look forward to seeing it," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office after meeting with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
In an effort to solicit ideas on how to get a better grip on the sectarian strife that's plaguing Iraq, and to better utilize American troops in that country, Bush was meeting with members of the Iraq Study Group.
"They want us to succeed in Iraq just like I want to succeed," Bush said. "I believe that it's important for us to succeed in Iraq not only for our security but for the security of the Middle East."
Bush said the goal in Iraq still is "a government that can sustain and defend itself" and said "the best military options depend on conditions on the ground."
Bush's comments followed a meeting with the group, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker II and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana. Members of the commission were also meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on Monday.
"This is not a deposition," White House spokesman Tony Snow said earlier, adding that the meeting was an assessment of the situation, not a discussion of alternative strategies.
Previous reports show that troop withdrawal plans are under review by the Iraq Study Group. Those plans could be included in its report, which is due to be released next month.
Bush has expressed an openness to new ideas to tackle problems in Iraq.
"All of these things are pushing towards one thing and that is victory in Iraq. And if there are good suggestions coming from either the Baker-Hamilton Commission or elsewhere, members of Congress both Republican and Democrat, we want to listen to them," Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president, said on "FOX News' Sunday."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte and CIA Director Michael Hayden were also meeting with the group. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was scheduled to speak to the group via video link on Tuesday.
"The president looks forward to sharing his thoughts with the Iraq Study Group, as do other administration officials," Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council, said Sunday. "He is open to any ideas and suggestions on the way forward."
Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, is leading a separate Pentagon investigation.
Gen. John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, met Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to "reaffirm President Bush's commitment" to victory in Iraq, the government said.
Meanwhile, as lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill for a lame-duck session, Iraq was leading the discussion.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said alternatives are needed to achieve success in Iraq, urging troops to return in phases within four months to six months.
The report "is going to have an impact on whatever action might be possible in this Congress and in the next Congress," when Democrats take control.
Baker has indicated the recommendations will fall somewhere between the troop withdrawal strategy that Republicans like to say Democrats favor and the stay the course policy until recently used by Bush and widely ridiculed by Democrats.
On Sunday, Bush's advisers adopted a new tone, days after a dissatisfied public handed the White House a divided government.
"Full speed ahead" in Iraq, as Cheney put it in the final days of the campaign, was replaced by repeated calls for a "fresh perspective" and an acknowledgment that "nobody can be happy" with the situation in Iraq.
"We clearly need a fresh approach," said Josh Bolten, Bush's chief of staff, making the rounds of morning talk shows.
Democrats, meanwhile, showed they were not all in accord on how to proceed in Iraq. Although party leaders back a multifaceted approach to stabilizing the country, lawmakers have not unified on when to bring troops home without risking more chaos in Iraq.
"We have to tell Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over," Levin said.
Yet the Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, did not seem to go as far. He said he thought the withdrawal of U.S. troops should began within a few months, but when asked if he would insist on a specific date, he said, "Absolutely not."
FOX News' Kelly Wright and The Associated Press contributed to this report.