Saturday, November 11, 2006

Eagleburger to join U.S. Iraq study group

Eagleburger to join U.S. Iraq study group

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawrence Eagleburger, who briefly served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush's father, will replace Defense secretary-designate Bob Gates on the blue-ribbon study group that is expected to recommend a new U.S. approach to Iraq.

The announcement was made by the United States Institute of Peace, which is coordinating the study chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, a Democrat.

Bush and Democrats -- who won control of the U.S. Congress in Tuesday's elections -- are looking to the study group to chart a new bipartisan course on Iraq, where more than 2,800 U.S. troops have died since the 2003 invasion.

Opposition to the U.S. presence in Iraq is seen as a major reason for the Democrats' defeat of Bush's Republican Party which saw them take back control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Eagleburger is the latest foreign policy expert known for their pragmatism and association with the first Bush presidency to be elevated into a high-profile position. Gates, the CIA director under Bush's father, was nominated earlier this week to replace Donald Rumsfeld, who was widely blamed for U.S. failures in Iraq.

Eagleburger, a retired foreign service officer, served Baker as deputy secretary of state and became secretary of state in August 1992 when Baker became White House chief of staff.

The study group, comprised of five Democrats and five Republicans, was created in March 2006 to conduct a forward-looking, bi-partisan assessment of the situation in Iraq, its impact on the surrounding region, and consequences for U.S. interests.

There has been speculation the group will report its findings by year's end but no specific date has been confirmed. Members are to meet Bush next week.

Other members include Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., former attorney general Edwin Meese III, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta, former defense secretary William Perry, and former U.S. senators Charles Robb and Alan Simpson.