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Senior US Democratic Leader Calls for Iraq Troop Redeployment in Six Months


A senior member of the U.S. Congress, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, has sharply criticized President Bush's decision to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. Hoyer is calling on the Bush administration to begin redeploying forces within the next six months, and predicts the Congress will support a resolution opposing the president's new strategy in Iraq. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.

Representative Hoyer, who was elected majority leader when the Democratic Party won control of the U.S. Congress, says his fellow Democrats are united around three basic proposals for Iraq.

"First, we must shift greater responsibility to the Iraqis for their security, and transition the principle mission of our forces from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terrorism," he said. "Second, we should begin the phased redeployment of our forces within the next six months. And, third, we must implement an aggressive diplomatic strategy."

President Bush says his plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq will give U.S. forces the reinforcements they need to complete their mission.

The most immediate goal is to quell raging sectarian violence in Baghdad and fight insurgents in al-Anbar province.

Hoyer, in an address before the Washington-based Brookings Institution, says he is not optimistic the president's new strategy will work.

"I believe that the president's so-called new strategy is really little more than stay the course," he added. "The president has, on at least two occasions, increased and decreased troop levels during this war, and the situation has deteriorated. In every instance, the response has been too little too late. I hope that the new strategy works. Presumably, all of us do. But, based upon the facts and record before us, my expectations and the expectations of the Congress and the American people are not high."

This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a non-binding resolution opposing the Bush administration's new plan for Iraq.

Congressman Hoyer says the House will debate a similar resolution soon, and predicted both will pass with the support of Democrats and Republicans.

"Next week the Senate will likely vote on and pass a bi-partisan resolution that makes clear that we need a real change of course, that the president's escalation proposal does not serve our national interest, that the Congress unconditionally supports our troops, and that the international community must embrace its responsibility in Iraq," he explained.

Hoyer is calling for an international conference, sponsored by the United Nations, to bring together various Iraqi factions, countries in the Middle East, the European Union and others in an effort to broker a peace settlement for Iraq.

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