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US lawmakers press for Iraq withdrawal plan

AFP | June 16, 2005

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday urged President George W. Bush to set a plan for the US withdrawal from Iraq, and said they would introduce legislation requiring him to do so.

The two Democrats and two Republicans, including two former presidential candidates, said they expect a cool reception to their proposal from leaders in the US Congress, but are counting on spurring public debate on US goals in Iraq.

"We're giving the American people now a vehicle for discussion. Isn't that the way America should work?" asked Representative Walter Jones, a conservative Republican from North Carolina.

Jones joined with Democratic representatives Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, and fellow Republican Ron Paul to propose that Congress require Bush to develop by the end of this year a plan to begin withdrawing US troops from Iraq in October 2006.

"Today is the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq. Our partnership reflects a shifting mood in Congress," said Kucinich, who fiercely opposed the war as a Democratic presidential candidate last year.

The four lawmakers said their bill was carefully drafted to avoid the bitter political disputes over US involvement in Iraq, and to be in line with Bush administration policies.

"This is not a Democratic approach or a Republican approach. This is a congressional approach," Kucinich said.

Polls have shown an erosion of public support for the Iraq war, in which more than 1,700 US troops have died, amid delays in the process of creating a new Iraqi government and persistent insurgent attacks.

But administration officials have rejected calls for a withdrawal schedule.

"I think it's fair to speak on behalf of the commanders and say that they would probably not welcome an artificially imposed deadline," said Lieutenant General James Conway, operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"They have their plan. It's a plan for victory. And forces will be withdrawn when victory is accomplished between US and Iraqi forces."

Conway, who commanded Marines in Iraq, did however say that Pentagon officials are concerned about the erosion of public support.

Paul, the 1988 Libertarian party nominee for president and now a Republican representative from Texas, said the resolution is "a reassertion of our reponsibility" as lawmakers.

"This is a shift in sentiment, and a shift in debate and we hope that we can contribute something positive," he said.

A similar resolution was introduced Wednesday in the Senate by Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.


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