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US Senators of Both Parties Declare Opposition to More Troops in Iraq

A bi-partisan group of U.S. senators, including John Warner, an influential member of President Bush's Republican Party, has announced support for a resolution opposing the president's plan to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.

Senator Warner is the senior Republican member of the Armed Services Committee, and is widely respected for his views on the U.S. military.

In the past Warner has strongly supported the Bush administration's policies on Iraq.

Monday, however, the senator announced he would vote for a non-binding resolution urging the president to drop his plan to send more than 20,000 extra troops as part of an effort to end sectarian violence in Baghdad.

"I feel ever so strongly that the American GI [soldier] was not trained, not sent over there to be placed in the middle of a fight between the Sunni and the Shi'ite and the wanton and just incomprehensible killing that is going on at this time," he said. "That is a mission that is important, but it should be performed by the Iraqi forces and not the coalition forces."

Republican Senator Susan Collins, of the northeastern state of Maine, says previous surges of American troops have not been successful.

Collins says her decision to support the resolution was strongly influenced by a trip she took to Iraq last month.

"I came back convinced that inserting more American troops into Baghdad, into the midst of a sectarian struggle, would be a major mistake," she said. "By contrast, I also am convinced that we do need more troops in Anbar province where the fight is not sectarian. The battle is against al-Qaida and foreign fighters."

The Democratic sponsor of the resolution, Ben Nelson, of the Midwestern state of Nebraska, says the proposal sends a strong message to the White House that there is significant opposition to the president's strategy in Iraq.

"This [resolution] will achieve bi-partisan support," he said. "In addition to that I think it more clearly establishes and pushes for benchmarks, measurable goals, and holds the Iraqi government far more accountable for their own protection and for their own sectarian violence."

Another bi-partisan group of senators recently announced support for a similar resolution and debate on both is expected to begin later this week.

The latest proposal was unveiled on the eve of President Bush's State of the Union address, a major speech to the American public and an opportunity for the president to discuss his Iraq policy.