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Bush Iraq Plan Rejected by US Senate Panel

A U.S. Senate panel has approved a measure expressing opposition to President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq. The measure passed by a 12-9 vote, despite President Bush's appeal to Congress Tuesday in his State of the Union address to allow his plan to succeed. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Only one Republican, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, joined the 11 Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in approving the resolution, which expresses opposition to President Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq to help stabilize the country.

Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran and likely candidate for the Republican nomination for president next year, sharply criticized Mr. Bush's decision to send more troops into what he calls a civil war.

He said, "We better be damned sure we know what we are doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder."

The chairman of the committee, Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, is another co-sponsor of the non-binding resolution, which does not have the force of law.

"Our resolution of disapproval is not - I emphasize not - an attempt to embarrass the president," he said. "It is not an attempt to demonstrate isolation. What it is, is an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake regarding our policy in Iraq."

Among the lawmakers who voted against the measure was the top Republican on the committee, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who said while he, too, opposes a U.S. troop increase in Iraq, he also opposes the resolution.

"It is unclear to me how passing a nonbinding resolution that the president has already said he will ignore will contribute to any improvement or modifications of our Iraq policy," he said.

Lugar says he fears passage of the resolution will make it more difficult for Congress to work with the president to influence his Iraq policy.

The resolution calls for the United States to transfer, under what it calls an appropriately expedited timeline, responsibility for internal security and halting sectarian violence in Iraq to the Iraqi government its security forces.

It also calls on the Bush administration to engage Iraq's neighbors to develop a regional and internationally-sponsored peace and reconciliation process for Iraq, and says Iraqi leaders should lead the way in reaching a political settlement that could lead to peace.

The resolution, which now goes to the Senate floor for consideration next week, is one of two that express opposition to Mr. Bush's plan. The other is sponsored by the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner of Virginia.

Senator Biden says he would consider working with Warner to combine the two resolutions into a single measure if that would increase Republican support.

Biden, who is also considering a run for his party's nomination for president next year, said he would introduce tougher, binding legislation on Iraq if President Bush fails to heed the message of the symbolic resolution.

The senator said he would consider, among other proposals, sponsoring a measure that would rewrite the resolution passed by Congress in 2002 that authorized the use of force in Iraq.