Bush rings changes in White House shake-up

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The Independent US

The promised Bush administration shake-up began in earnest yesterday, as the President named a new budget director and US trade representative, and made clear that more high-level changes were on the way.

The most significant appointment, just three days into Josh Bolten's tenure as chief of staff, sees Rob Portman, previously Washington's top trade negotiator take over Mr Bolten's old post as White House budget director. Mr Portman will be replaced by his deputy Susan Schwab.

Mr Portman, a former congressman, should win easy confirmation on Capitol Hill, where he has friends among Democrats as well as Republicans.

More changes lie ahead, as George Bush seeks to rescue his presidency and shore up support for Republicans ahead of November's mid-term elections. There is speculation about the future of John Snow, the Treasury Secretary, and the White House communications team may get an overhaul, with a new spokesman replacing Scott Mclellan.

But the changes will not reach the Pentagon, and the embattled Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, whose resignation has been demanded by half a dozen retired generals. "I know the speculation," Mr Bush said. "But I'm the decider and I decide what's best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain."

* Mr Bush refused yesterday to rule out nuclear strikes against Iran if diplomacy fails to curb the Islamic republic's atomic ambitions. Iran says its nuclear programme is purely peaceful.