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US Lawmakers Call on Bush to Set Timetable for Iraq Withdrawal

The White House says President George Bush will "sharpen his focus on two priorities, the economy and Iraq." More than two years after the U.S. military toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, American public opinion on how long U.S. troops should remain there may be shifting.

On Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers Thursday, introduced a resolution calling on President Bush to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from the Midwestern state of Ohio, said it's time to begin the end of American involvement in Iraq.

"Our partnership reflects a shifting mood in Congress caused by daily reports of more Americans dead in a war with no end in sight. Now our bill says enough," he said. " We require the Commander in Chief, the President, our President to produce a plan to bring the troops home, to hand over responsibilities to the elected Iraqi government and to end our military engagements there."

Congressman Walter Jones, a Republican from the southern state of North Carolina, who supported the war in Iraq said the sentiment and debate on American troops in Iraq has changed.

"After 1700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded, and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and this discussion on this resolution," he said.

The resolution introduced by the legislators sets a timetable of October 1, 2006 for President Bush to begin removing troops from Iraq.

And several recent polls indicate that 60 percent of the American public think U.S. troops should start leaving Iraq. White House Spokesman Scott McClellan disagrees.

"The President wants to see the troops come home soon, but the best way to honor the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform is to complete the mission. Iraq is critical to winning the war on terrorism," he said. "It is critical to our long-term security here at home. A free Iraq will help transform a dangerous region of the world."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Americans to support the effort in Iraq with the patience and generosity they have had in the past.

Condoleezza Rice
"This is hard. Everybody knows the American people have been asked to support a complex and difficult task in trying to help the Iraqis in overthrowing a dictator then create a united and a viable democratically based state, " she said.

The Administration says a timetable for withdrawal sends a dangerous message. Lawrence Di Rita is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.

"To pick a deadline or demand that a deadline be established -- I think, in addition to, as the president and others have talked about, encouraging insurgents to just wait us out, I'm not sure anybody has sufficient knowledge to be able to pick the right deadline," he said.

The Administration says American troops are needed in Iraq until the new Iraqi government can handle its own security. Next week President Bush will welcome Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to the White House to discuss the continuing democratic transition in Iraq. June 28 marks the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people.