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Bush plans changes in key advisers for Iraq fresh start
Yahoo News/Reuters
By Carol Giacomo and Steve Holland
January 4, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush is planning to name a new ambassador and military commanders for Iraq as he prepares to make a fresh start on a worsening problem that has mired his administration and threatens his legacy.

The changes are part of a major realignment of administration personnel as Bush seeks to adjust his approach to Iraq, where nearly four years of a large U.S. military presence has failed to bring stability and an end to violence.

The current U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Ryan Crocker, is expected to replace Zalmay Khalilzad in Baghdad as U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Khalilzad is expected to be nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, three senior U.S. officials said on Thursday.

ABC News said Bush was expected to nominate Adm. William Fallon to replace Gen. John Abizaid as the head of U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus was expected to become the top ground commander in Iraq, replacing Gen. George Casey, ABC said, citing unnamed officials.

But there is little expectation that changing faces will mean a radical shift in policy called for by some opposition Democrats, who took control of the U.S. Congress on Thursday after an election dominated by the Iraq debate.

Bush is still giving top consideration to a short-term increase in U.S. troops to Baghdad and is expected to outline his plans in a speech next week. Asked what the theme would be, spokesman Tony Snow said: "Victory."

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who on Thursday became first woman speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said November elections that brought her party to power in the U.S. Congress meant Americans wanted a change of direction.

"Shortly, President Bush will address the nation on the subject of Iraq," she said in her inaugural speech. "It is the responsibility of the president to articulate a new plan for Iraq that makes it clear to the Iraqis that they must defend their own streets and their own security, a plan that promotes stability in the region and a plan that allows us to responsibly redeploy our troops."

The Pentagon declined to comment on the ABC report.

Fallon currently is the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific. The move would place a Navy admiral in control of two land wars.

Replacing Abizaid and Casey and giving Khalilzad a new job would wrap up a virtually complete change of top U.S. officials responsible for the prosecuting the war and dealing directly with the American-backed Iraqi government in Baghdad.

Khalilzad, who had also served as ambassador to Afghanistan during Bush's first term, would replace John Bolton, who left the U.N. post last week.

This follows the departure of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was replaced with former CIA chief Robert Gates.

Original Text