President Bush meets with a top Iraqi Shiite politician whose followers control the Iraqi Interior Ministry -- the agency widely accused of involvement in the killings of Sunni Arabs.
The president hosted Abdelaziz al-Hakim at the White House. Hakim heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a group founded by Iraqi exiles in Iran and heavily supported by the Tehran government.
President Bush reportedly told Hakim that he is not satisfied with the situation in Iraq. Hakim said the problems should be solved by Iraqis -- without outside involvement.
Hakim is no stranger to the Bush administration. The cleric was a proponent of the war to topple Saddam Hussein and a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.
Mr. Bush said the talks focused on the need to support a unity government in Iraq.
"I told him that we are not satisfied with the pace of progress in Iraq," the president said, "and that we want to continue to work with the sovereign government of Iraq to accomplish our mutual objectives."
U.S. officials deny the president is starting to hedge his bets and consider alternatives should Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki's government collapse. Instead, officials say, the goal is to talk to a wide range of Iraqis about reconciliation -- and they point out that a top sunni leader is expected to come to the White House soon.
For his part, Hakim did his best to keep his relations with Washington on track.
"We cherish all the sacrifices that took place for the liberation and freedom of Iraq," Hakim said in Arabic, "sacrifices by Iraqis and by friendly nations. And on top of that list, sacrifices by the Americans."