US House to debate Iraq troop withdrawals

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Washington, Nov 8: The Democratic-led US House of Representatives will try again to end US combat in Iraq when it debates legislation this week tying new war funds to troop withdrawals, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today.

The legislation, similar to a bill President George W Bush vetoed earlier this year, ''gives voice to the concerns of the American people'' over a war that is now in its fifth year and ''with no light at the end of the tunnel,'' said Pelosi, a California Democrat.

As early as tomorrow, the House will debate the plan that would give Bush only 50 billion dollars of the 196 billion dollars in new funds he has asked for to continue fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the money would go to Iraq.

Congress is expected to consider the rest of the funding next year.

The House has repeatedly passed legislation this year aimed at ending the Iraq war, only to see it die in the Senate at the hands of Republicans or killed by Bush.

The bill also would specifically outlaw torture by U.S.

officials. Bush says torture is already prohibited, but refuses to disclose US interrogation methods.

Torture became a key issue at attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey's Senate confirmation hearings when the retired judge refused to say if he considered waterboarding -- simulated drowning -- to be torture.

Pelosi said the legislation would provide 50 billion dollars in war funding for four more months. As they have done in the past, House Democrats will try to attach conditions requiring the Pentagon to immediately begin withdrawing some of the 169,000 troops in Iraq, with the goal of completing the withdrawal by December 2008.

Pelosi sidestepped a reporter's question on whether congressional support for the idea had grown enough to overturn an inevitable veto by Bush.

The war funds would be in addition to about $460 billion the House approved overwhelmingly on Thursday for the Pentagon's regular budget for this fiscal year. That money still must be voted on by the Senate.

'Entirely reasonable' Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, called the House troop withdrawal measure ''entirely reasonable'' and added the Senate would consider action of its own next week.

The House debate would come as a new opinion poll indicated widespread national opposition to the war. A CNN-Opinion Research Corp survey said a record 68 percent of Americans now opposed the war.

In other public opinion polls, Congress has been registering even lower approval marks, which many attribute in part to Democrats' inability to change Bush's war policy.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio called the Democrats' troop withdrawal proposal ''so backward and irresponsible that it can only be explained as a political stunt.'' He said this year's increase in US combat troops in Iraq ''has succeeded in bringing al Qaeda in Iraq to its knees.'' While there is evidence of some military success in securing parts of Iraq, Democrats have complained there is little progress toward political reconciliation.

Like previous proposals, the new legislation would provide for an unspecified number of US troops to stay in Iraq to protect American diplomats and facilities, train Iraqis and perform counterterrorism operations. It is thought that force would total in the tens of thousands.


Reuters
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