Schwarzenegger rejects California vote on Iraq war

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SAN FRANCISCO, Sep 12 (Reuters) California Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill today creating a ballot vote on whether state residents favor an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

The vote in California, where polls have shown most residents support withdrawing some or all troops from Iraq, would have been only symbolic and not directly impacted the contribution by the country's most populous state to the war.

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, a Democrat, backed the measure as a way to express public opinion short of taking to the streets in protest as many in California did during the Vietnam War.

''Public opinion polls have confirmed again and again that Californians are sharply divided, as are all Americans, as to when and how our troops should be withdrawn,'' Schwarzenegger said in his veto message issued early today. ''We do not need an advisory ballot to understand this deep divide.'' ''The decision to engage in or withdraw troops from war is a federal issue, not a state issue.'' California has a long tradition of state initiatives and referenda in which voters express their preferences on public policy issues. The Iraq war measure would have appeared on the February ballot when Californians vote in the 2008 presidential primary.

A Field Poll last month found that nearly two-thirds of Californians support either fully or partially withdrawing US forces from Iraq.

''There is no louder message Californians can send to Washington on the Iraq war than who should lead our nation,'' said Republican Schwarzenegger, who has in the past expressed support for the war.

''Placing a nonbinding resolution on Iraq on the same ballot, when it carries no weight or authority, would only further divide voters and shift attention from other critical issues that must be addressed.'' Perata has said his measure would have sent a strong message.

''With the possible exception of George Bush, we all know it's time to go,'' Perata said earlier this year. ''If the biggest state in the nation says 'end the war now,' maybe it will start to sink in.'' REUTERS RaR RAI2206

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