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Bush Welcomes Senate Action on Iraq


President Bush says he appreciates the U.S. Senate's rejection of a measure calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

President Bush says the Senate's rejection of a timetable for troop withdrawal is a positive step that will help lead to success in Iraq. He told reporters in Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto that he appreciates the Senate's bipartisan vote against a timetable that he says would have taken U.S. troops out of Iraq before the mission is complete.

President Bush has said that a firm timetable for troop withdrawal would embolden Iraqi insurgents by encouraging them to simply wait for U.S. troops to leave.

On a vote of 79 to 19, the Senate did pass a resolution calling on President Bush to lay out his strategy for completing the mission, saying 2006 should be a period of transition to full Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqi forces should take the lead in keeping their country secure.

The non-binding measure also calls on the White House to provide quarterly reports on political and military progress. President Bush says that is consistent with the strategy he is already pursuing.

"The Senate did ask that we report on progress being made in Iraq, which we are more than willing to do," he said. "That is to be expected. That is what the Congress expects. They expect us to keep them abreast of a plan that is going to work."

As American public-opinion polls show support for the mission in Iraq falling, some Congressional Democrats say the president needs to be more clear about what needs to happen in Iraq before American troops can come home.

President Bush says he is being clear, that - as more Iraqi security forces are better able to handle their own security - American troops will gradually be scaled back. Mr. Bush is dismissing Democratic criticism of U.S. involvement in Iraq, saying the mission will help bring peace to the broader Middle East.

"It is important that we succeed in Iraq. A democracy in Iraq will bring peace for generations to come. And we are going to," he said. "The Iraqi people want us to succeed. The only reason we won't succeed is if we lose our nerve and the terrorists are able to drive us out of Iraq by killing innocent lives. But I view this as positive developments on the Hill."

White House Counselor Dan Bartlett told reporters that the Senate's rejection of a timetable for troop withdrawal strengthens the administration's position and its allies in Congress.

Senate Democrats say the resolution calling on Iraqi leaders to take more responsibility for their own country represents a shift in Republican sentiment on Iraq that the president needs greater accountability, a clear strategy, and a schedule to achieve it.

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