updated 5/21/2007 11:34:19 AM ET 2007-05-21T15:34:19

President Bush expressed confidence in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday despite growing frustration in Congress about his government.

Bush, at his ranch in Texas, called al-Maliki to mark the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.

“The president reaffirmed his confidence in the prime minister and noted the courage that he has shown in a challenging and difficult year,” Bush spokesman Tony Fratto said.

The leaders discussed political progress in Iraq, and al-Maliki gave Bush updates on oil-sharing legislation and efforts to reform the country’s constitution.

Fratto said it is hard to pin down when the Iraqi government will deliver on its promises of political reconciliation.

“Obviously we want the Iraqis and the Iraqi parliament to move as quickly as possible,” Fratto said. “Progress on advancing these initiatives is not moving as quickly as anyone wants — and I think that includes Prime Minister Maliki and many members of parliament.”

A week ago, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said senators in both parties are frustrated with the Iraqi government.

“I don’t know what their problem is, but this country has made an enormous investment in giving the Iraqis a chance to have a normal government after all of these years of Saddam Hussein and his atrocities,” said McConnell, R-Ky.

“And there’s a growing sense of bipartisan frustration in the Senate over the lack of progress on the political side of the Iraqi government,” he said. “I think benchmarks will be a part of the final package that we get to the president for signature on the troop funding bill.”

The White House is negotiating with Democratic leaders in Congress over a war-spending bill for Iraq. Bush vetoed the first version because it set timetables for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Pelosi accuses Bush of ‘tin ear’
On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Bush has a “tin ear” when it comes to Iraq and should compromise with majority Democrats on a spending bill with a timetable for U.S. troops to leave. Both sides hope to get a new bill to Bush before the Memorial Day weekend.

The White House and Congress failed to come up with a deal last week after exchanging offers and Bush’s chief of staff said after a Capitol Hill meeting Friday that “timelines for withdrawal are just not the right way to go.”

McConnell spoke of the need for legislation that would pass both the House and Senate, where Democrats hold a slimmer edge. He mentioned a proposal advanced by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and other Republicans that would set standards for the Iraqi government to meet and condition reconstruction funds on progress toward achieving the goals.

“It’s what can pass the Senate,” McConnell said.

To Pelosi, however, “This is too little, too late. This would have been an appropriate measure maybe three or four years ago. But the accountability is very meager in the bill,” she said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

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