US President George Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki opened talks today after yesterday's planned meeting was cancelled following disclosure of US doubts about the Iraqi leader’s capabilities and a Baghdad protest at Bush's attendance.
Instead of talks over two days, the stunning turn of events found Bush and Maliki meeting for a working breakfast that was to be followed by a longer session and a news conference.
The Iraqi prime minister came to Bush’s hotel.
The abrupt cancellation of yesterday’s opening session was an almost unheard-of development in the high-level diplomatic circles of a US president, a king and a prime minister.
Confusion – and conflicting explanations – ensued.
Bush had been scheduled to participate in a three-way session with Maliki and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, rearranging his overseas itinerary to be in Amman for both days for talks aimed at reducing the spiral of violence in Iraq.
White House counsellor Dan Bartlett denied that the delay was a snub by Maliki directed at Bush or was related to the leak of a memo written by White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley questioning the prime minister’s capacity for controlling violence in Iraq.