US President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday opened talks originally set for the day before but canceled following disclosure of US doubts about the Iraqi leader's capabilities and a Baghdad protest of his attendance.
Instead of talks over two days, the stunning turn of events found Bush and al-Maliki meeting for a working breakfast that was to be followed by a longer session and a news conference. The Iraqi prime minister came to Bush's hotel.
The abrupt cancellation of Wednesday's opening session was an almost unheard-of development in the high-level diplomatic circles of a US president, a king and a prime minister. Confusion, and conflicting explanations, ensued.
Bush had been scheduled to participate in a three-way session with al-Maliki and Jordan's King Abdullah II, rearranging his overseas itinerary to be in Amman for both days for talks aimed at reducing the spiral of violence in Iraq.