Washington: President George W. Bush prodded Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki to unite rival factions in a government stung by an announcement that the largest Sunni Arab bloc intends to pull out.
The 45-minute conversation on Wednesday occurred as Democratic war critics in the House of Representatives decided to make one final attempt before a month-long vacation to nudge the administration toward a new war policy.
Bush and Al Maliki spoke by 45 minutes in a secure video conference, part of a regular series of conversations on the war and Iraq's struggling democracy.
"The president emphasized that the Iraqi people and the American people need to see action _ not just words _ but need to see action on the political front," White House
press secretary Tony Snow said. "The prime minister agreed."
Iraqi legislators have faced criticism in the US for taking a summer break while American forces are fighting to create conditions for them to end their sectarian political
divisions. But many Iraqi legislators have blamed Al Maliki for failing to provide leadership on political reconciliation.
The White House, meanwhile, played down the significance of the Sunni Accordance Front's leaving the Iraqi government. Rafaa Al Issawi, a leading member of the Front,
said at a news conference Wednesday that the Sunni bloc's six Cabinet ministers would submit their resignations. Al Issawi said the decision to pull out from the government
followed what he called Al Maliki's failure to respond to the Accordance Front.
Snow said reconciliation is continuing. He noted that Vice President Tariq Al Hashemi and the minister of defense, both Sunnis, remain in place.
"There's political wrangling in Baghdad as there is in Washington," Snow said.
"The prime minister has made it clear that he remains determined to try to pull the coalition together," he said.
In the US Congress, Democrats and many Republicans have grown impatient with the Iraqi's government progress as US forces continue to fight and die.
Bush and Al Maliki noted some upbeat news on two other fronts.
They both welcomed Saudi Arabia's pledge Wednesday to open diplomatic relations with the Shiite-led government in Iraq and to explore plans to open an embassy in Baghdad. Bush also praised the Iraqi national team for winning the prestigious Asian Cup soccer tournament.
"Both leaders noted that the victory demonstrated to the world what Iraqis could do when they work together," Snow said.