Carter Weighs In on Crucial Mideast Talks

President Bush leaves today on a high-stakes trip to Jordan for what some are calling a "crisis summit" with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki.

And, critic and former President Carter has one piece of advice for Bush: Don't give up on achieving peace in the region.

"I think the people of the Middle East truly want peace," Carter said on "Good Morning America" today. "If he could find a way to tap that desire, I think that's the best way."

Bush is embarking on this trip after some of the most horrific bloodshed since the war began, and is under tremendous pressure to do something to get the chaos in Iraq under control.

His trip also comes as America marks a milestone over the weekend -- the United States has now been at war with Iraq longer than it was involved in World War II.

Crucial Talks

Baghdad is considered too unsafe for Bush to meet with al-Maliki.

Vice President Dick Cheney has been looking for help from Saudi Arabia, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with Egyptian leaders to look for solutions to stemming the violence in Iraq.

"There are powerful forces that are pulling and pushing the region in different directions. And I think what the United States needs to do is to dramatically change the dynamics in the region," said Fawaz Gergers, professor of Middle Eastern studies at Sarah Lawrence College.

Bush's primary goal is to show that the United States is still committed to a solution.

Some fear the meeting itself could make the situation worse.

One Shiite bloc -- usually critical support for al-Maliki -- has threatened to boycott Parliament if he makes the trip.

Talk to Iran, Syria

Meanwhile, the Iraq Study Group, spearheaded by former Secretary of State James Baker, meets again in Washington today to try to hammer out a bipartisan solution.

An early draft of the group's recommendations is expected soon.

Members of the group are considering everything from an international force of some sort to increasing U.S. troop strength to a U.S. drawdown.

Carter said he believes that a very carefully planned U.S. troop withdrawal is key to quelling violence in the region.

"It's necessary for the Iraqi government, whatever it is, to know they have to take responsibility for the situation themselves," Carter said. "It is very likely just the presence of American troops in the heart of the most troubled areas of Iraq precipitates more violence than may otherwise have been expected."

Baker has also been pushing for international dialogue, not with allies, but with Syria and Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said he would help broker peace in the Middle East if the United States pulled out of Iraq now.

Thus far, the administration has refused any dialogue with Iraq and Syria.

Carter called that "one of the most counterproductive policies I've ever seen -- to not talk to the people who disagree with you, unless they agree in advance of everything you demand."

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