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Bush Cautions Democrats Against Setting Iraq Withdrawal Timeline

U.S. President George Bush says he will veto an emergency spending bill for the war in Iraq, if Democrats, who control Congress, include conditions setting a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Democrats say the president is committing American forces to an open-ended civil war. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports.

President Bush says Democrats in Congress want to force a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, just as his new strategy for success is beginning to show what he calls hopeful signs of progress.

"As these operations unfold, they will help the Iraqi government stabilize the country, rebuild the economy, and advance the work of political reconciliation," said Mr. Bush. "Yet, the bill Congress is considering would undermine General Petraeus and the troops under his command, just as these critical security operations are getting under way."

General David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, was confirmed by the Senate without opposition.

The House of Representatives is expected next week to consider Democratic-sponsored legislation calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq no later than September next year, as part of a spending package that includes more than $95 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush says Congressional Democrats want to impose what he calls arbitrary and restrictive conditions on the use of war funds.

In his weekly radio address, President Bush said imposing an artificial timetable on the war would be disastrous.

"Many in Congress say they support the troops, and I believe them," added Mr. Bush. "Now they have a chance to show that support in deed, as well as in word. Congress needs to approve emergency funding for our troops, without strings and without delay. If they send me a bill that does otherwise, I will veto it."

In the Democratic radio address, Washington Senator Patty Murray said narrowing America's mission gives U.S troops the best chance to succeed. She says it is time for a new direction in Iraq, not more of the same.

"Unfortunately, this is a reality President Bush and a majority of Congressional Republicans still refuse to recognize," she said. "They want to stay the course. They want to ignore the lessons of the last four years. They want to commit America to an open-ended civil war."

Tuesday marks the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion, and protests are planned around the country, including a march in Washington Saturday to the Pentagon. A public opinion poll by CNN says 61 percent of Americans believe the United States is not winning.

Senator Murray says the start of the fifth year of U.S. troops in Iraq will be a solemn day.

"In Congress, my fellow Democrats and I believe it is time to bring this war to a close," she added. "Our troops, who have served bravely under difficult conditions, have done everything we have asked. As we enter the fifth year, it is time for the Iraqis to step up, secure their own country, and finally take responsibility for their own future."

White House officials say the president does not intend to mark the anniversary of the invasion.