( AFP ) - The White House has begun exploring ways of offering the US Congress a compromise deal on Iraq that might involve greater decentralization of the country, The Los Angeles Times reported on its website Sunday.
Citing unnamed officials, the newspaper said President George W. Bush has authorized an internal policy review to find a plan that could satisfy opponents without sacrificing his top goals.
Some senior administration officials -- including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad -- have been quietly talking with lawmakers about how to adjust policy in the months ahead, the report said.
Among other ideas, they have discussed whether the United States should advocate a sharply decentralized Iraq, a notion that has seen a resurgence on Capitol Hill, according to the paper.
Leading congressional Republicans have signaled that they expect a new US course by September, when a key military assessment is due, The Times said.
Democrats, meanwhile, intend to use other legislative measures to push Bush toward a troop withdrawal, beginning as early as this week's deliberations on a Defense authorization bill.
Administration officials have signaled that there is a spectrum of views within the government, the report said.
Some top officials, including Gates, have appeared less enthusiastic about the current "surge" of 30,000 troops. And in recent weeks, they have begun considering a partial drawdown that could start as early as the first quarter of next year.
That idea of what proponents of decentralization call a "federal system of government" is favored by an unusually broad bipartisan group of senators, and the administration's stance may be easing, The Times said.
On a trip to Iraq about a week ago, Gates openly reflected that greater emphasis outside Baghdad might prove more effective, according to the report.
And Khalilzad, who was the US ambassador to Iraq until April, has discussed the federalism plan with Senators Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sam Brownback.
Khalilzad, in an interview, rejected the idea of imposing decentralization on the Iraqis, saying it could "backfire politically," the paper said.
But Khalilzad said he favored the idea of UN officials helping Iraqis decide, in their current deliberations over their constitution, whether to choose a structure that would transfer power to the regions, The Times pointed out.