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Bush asserts progress in Iraq war

Reuters | April 21, 2007 
Tabassum Zakaria

President George W. Bush on Friday rebuffed a top Democrat's charge the Iraq war was lost and asserted progress despite some of the worst carnage since Bush ordered more troops to the region.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has been hit with a barrage of criticism from the White House and its allies after declaring on Thursday that "this war is lost" and that the troop buildup was "not accomplishing anything."

Speaking before a world affairs forum in Michigan, Bush said the two-month-old security crackdown under which he is adding 28,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq was "meeting expectations" and the ongoing violence reflected an expected reaction by insurgents.

"There are still horrific attacks in Iraq such as the bombings in Baghdad on Wednesday, but the direction of the fight is beginning to shift," Bush said.

Insurgent bombs killed nearly 200 people in Baghdad on Wednesday, the same day Bush met Reid and other lawmakers at the White House in a clash over the Democrats' plans to attach troops withdrawal timetables to a war-funding bill.

The meeting did not achieve a breakthrough, but Reid told reporters on Thursday he had compared Iraq to Vietnam and advised Bush not to persist in fighting a losing battle,

With congressional Republicans pouring scorn on Reid and labeling him a "defeatist," the Nevada Democrat took to the Senate floor on Friday to defend himself.

Reid said the "White House spin machine was working overtime" to defend Bush's failed policies and said Bush and his allies were attacking those with "courage to ask the tough questions, to tell the truth about Iraq."

"The longer we continue down the president's path, the further we will be from responsibly ending this war," Reid declared.

GROWING SUPPORT

More than 3,300 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and polls have suggested growing support among Americans for attempts by Democrats to set a timetable for a withdrawal.

Bush said it might not be possible to fully assess whether the security plan is working until later this year but he cited fewer execution-style killings in Baghdad and a decision by some local sheiks in volatile Anbar province to cooperate with U.S. forces as signs of progress.

But Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin said the troop increase had failed to achieve its goal of creating breathing room for a political settlement in Iraq.

"I don't see any evidence of movement towards a political settlement," Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters in a conference call.

Democrats plan to send Bush a funding bill as early as next week that includes timetables. If he vetoes that, as he has repeatedly said he would, a resolution of the confrontation could be weeks away.

Democrats may try to override the veto but if they cannot summon enough votes, they will weigh whether to draft a new bill with softer language.

The area of Michigan where Bush visited is near the hometown of former President Gerald Ford, who died in December.

Bush paid tribute to Ford, a fellow Republican in his public remarks and later laid a bouquet of white roses at the former president's graveside.

Ford disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq, according to journalists who interviewed him before he died.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell)

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