WASHINGTON — U.S. President George W. Bush said Thursday that he and successor Barack Obama will discuss Iraq and the global economic crisis in their first post-election face-to-face talks, set for Monday.
Bush, who steps down January 20th after eight years, told about 1,000 aides during an emotional thank-you speech that they needed to bring Obama's team up to speed on critical matters like the war and the meltdown.
"I look forward to discussing those issues with the president-elect early next week," the U.S. president said, 75 days before he makes history by handing the keys to the White House to the first black U.S. president.
The president-elect said in a statement that he and his wife Michelle Obama "look forward to meeting with President Bush and the First Lady on Monday to begin the process of a smooth, effective transition."
"I thank him for reaching out in the spirit of bipartisanship that will be required to meet the many challenges we face as a nation," said Obama, who also received his first major intelligence briefing from Bush aides on Thursday.
The meeting will be Obama's first at the White House since his decisive November 4 victory.
The talks will come just days before world leaders converge on Washington for a November 15 summit to address the causes of and remedies to the international economic crisis, likely the first in a series.
Bush and First Lady Laura Bush were to greet the Obamas, then the incumbent and his successor were to meet in the Oval Office as their spouses toured the residence section of the mansion, said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
Bush, whose deep unpopularity helped power Obama's victory over Republican rival John McCain, also warned that terrorists like those behind the September 11, 2001 attacks may strike at the United States during the handover.
"We're in a struggle against violent extremists determined to attack us, and they would like nothing more than to exploit this period of change to harm the American people," he said.
Bush cited the threat of terrorism and "economic challenges that will not pause to let a new president settle in" among the top reasons for which "ensuring that this transition is as smooth as possible is a priority for the rest of my presidency."
"For the next 75 days, all of us must ensure that the next president and his team can hit the ground running," said the president, who leaves office January 20.
Perino confirmed that Obama was getting intelligence briefings and said that the White House was connecting the soon-to-be 44th US president with world leaders and diplomats eager to meet him.
"People are very excited about our next president, and they're interested in getting to meet him and putting their ideas or their agendas in front of him to make sure that they continue to have a good, seamless relationship with the United States of America, and we're going to help facilitate that," she said.
Months ago, Bush ordered a government-wide effort to make sure that the first wartime transfer of power in Washington in decades would go smoothly, with briefings for Obama and McCain staff on key issues.
Top Obama national security aides are expected to attend special exercises to test responses to natural disasters or terrorist attacks, and even the Obama press staff will get help by shadowing Bush communications aides.
While the incumbent is eager to help his successor, "I don't think that President Bush will be presumptuous in trying to talk to Barack Obama about how he makes decisions, or how Barack Obama should make decisions," said Perino.
"I think that the American people decided that this is the man that they want to be president of the United States, and that he'll be the one that they trust to make decisions," the spokeswoman said.
Copyright 2008 AFP