Bush visit shows there's no alternative to Maliki: aide

BAGHDAD, Sept 4, 2007 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush's surprise visit to Iraq was a stamp of approval for the embattled government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Tuesday.

"The message is that there is no alternative to this government," Dabbagh said in a television interview. "Thinking of alternatives to this government is a figment of the imagination."

Bush's meeting with Maliki at a desert air base on Monday during a brief stopover on his way to Australia also showed "US support of the government for its effort to stabilise Iraq," Dabbagh said.

"We should not stop the political process just because there are differing views within the government."

During their meeting, Maliki and Bush discussed the security situation in the country and the apparent security gains by US-led forces in the restive province of Anbar.

"This could help in dealing a final blow against Al-Qaeda," Dabbagh said.

Iraq's lawmakers too saw Bush's visit as a boost for Maliki.

"The visit reflects the intention of the US administration to support and enhance Iraq's political process," said deputy speaker Khalid al-Attiya.

Salim Abdullah al-Juburi, an MP from the National Concord Front, the main Sunni bloc in parliament, said he believed Bush had come to show his support for Maliki.

"It was a way of supporting the government. It was meant to urge the politicians to bypass the crisis through a formula that gathers all parties," he said.

The view was echoed by Abdul-Bari Zebai, an MP representing the Kurdish alliance.

"Bush exercised no pressure on the government. His visit was within the framework of encouraging the government and pushing the political process forward," said Zebai.

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09/04/2007 12:26 GMT

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