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Democrats, Republicans Join Together to Demand US Iraq Exit Strategy

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has embarked on a new legislative effort to force the Bush administration to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq. The White House has already rejected the new effort:

The resolution calls on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq on or before the first of October of 2006.

Previous efforts, most of them by Democratic members of the House and Senate, have called on the Bush administration to set a timetable for pulling out of Iraq.

A news conference Thursday reflected the bipartisan nature of the new effort, as Congressman Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, called it entirely reasonable for the United States to begin drawing down troop levels in Iraq.

"Clearly we have given the Iraqis every reasonable chance for democracy. But at some time in the near future the ultimate fight of Iraq will and should rest in the hands of Iraqis," he said. "We will continue to support them in their efforts, but they cannot forever be dependent on America as the primary defense force in Iraq. After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded, and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and this discussion on this resolution."

Another Republican joining in support of the resolution is Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.

"One thing I believe that motivates all of us is to see a decrease in the killing of our military. This is really bothersome to most of us, and to the American people and the numbers now are starting to alarm [us] a lot more. Today there were five more military people killed in Iraq," he said.

Pressed by reporters for another administration assessment of how things are going in Iraq, and on the new effort by lawmakers in Congress, White House spokesman Scott McClellan had this response.

"It would be the wrong message to send to the terrorists, it would be the wrong message to send to the Iraqi people, and it would be the wrong message to send to our troops," he said.

However, the two Republicans and two Democrats supporting the resolution say they believe it will gain additional support from other lawmakers in coming days and weeks.

Congressman Neil Abercrombie says the point of the resolution is not to place blame for what has happened in Iraq to date.

"We are not here to assess blame [or] get involved in recriminations or accusations. We believe the troops have done everything that they can do from a military point of view," he said.

Earlier this week, a Senate Democrat, Russ Feingold, introduced a resolution calling on the Bush administration to give Congress specifics about remaining U.S. military goals in Iraq, as well as a timetable for withdrawing troops.