Dubai: The statements by Iraqi and US politicians in the past few days reflect a new political tone and reveal their deep differences over plans to tackle the deteriorating situation in Iraq.
Violence continued its death dance as yesterday's suicide bombing claimed the lives of 20 Iraqis. And 14 US soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed in northern Iraq.
US President George Bush last night, in a speech to military veterans, offered fresh backing for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki. "Prime Minister [Al] Maliki's a good guy, a good man with a difficult job and I support him," he said.
The renewed American support came close on the heels of some harsh words from Al Maliki in response to earlier US criticism.
Bush and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on Tuesday voiced frustration and disappointment with the Al Maliki government. Senator Carl Levin on Monday called for Al Maliki's ouster and wanted him replaced with a less sectarian leader.
At the end of his visit to Damascus, Al Maliki said "no one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government. It was elected by its people".
"Those who make such statements are bothered by our visit to Syria. We will pay no attention. We care for our people and our constitution and can find friends elsewhere," news agencies quoted Al Maliki as saying.
Meanwhile, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani brushed off a French proposal for reconciling rival factions as unnecessary, saying that he would prefer French oil investment or help in reconstruction.
Iraqi politicians will meet in Finland next week for talks in response to an invitation from the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), a Finnish non-governmental organisation specialising in conflict resolution. CMI has invited "about a dozen" Iraqi officials to a "seminar" to study other peace processes.