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Bush prods Iraqi leaders to form government

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, Apr 19 (Reuters) President George W Bush said today Iraqi leaders must form a unity government soon to avoid a dangerous political vacuum and told Americans weary of the war that ''failure is not an option.'' Mr Bush spoke after meeting four governors -- two Republicans and two Democrats -- who just returned from visiting US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraqi leaders are struggling to put together a unity government that Washington sees as an important milestone toward the eventual drawdown of US troops.

''We fully recognize that the Iraqis must step up and form a unity government so that those who went to the polls to vote recognise that a government will be in place to respond to their needs,'' Mr Bush said.

He said ''vacuums in the political process create opportunities for malfeasance and harm.'' ''So we assured these governors that we understand full well that the political process in Iraq must occur soon and we are working toward that end,'' Mr Bush said.

Mr Bush is facing sagging American support for the war and is trying to tamp down a drumbeat of criticism from retired military generals who are demanding the resignation of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

''I don't expect everybody to agree with my decision to go into Iraq, but I do want ... the American people to understand that failure in Iraq is not an option, that failure in Iraq would make the security situation for our country worse,'' Mr Bush said.

The governors Mr Bush met included his brother, Florida Republican Gov Jeb Bush, his former White House budget director, Indiana Republican Gov Mitch Daniels, a possible Democratic presidential aspirant, Iowa Gov Tom Vilsack, and West Virginia Democratic Gov Joe Manchin.

The governors said US troop morale was high. Daniels said he spoke to many military personnel out of earshot of their commanding officers and ''they believe they're doing something important.'' Reuters SI RS1936

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