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Bush Challenged On War And Prosecutors


President Bush faces major political challenges on two fronts this week, the war in Iraq and a controversy involving his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.

The president is scheduled to meet with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday as both sides remained locked in an impasse over a spending bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Democrats are insisting that the bill set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq beginning next year.

Mr. Bush said Monday that a troop withdrawal deadline means Congress would be, in his words, legislating defeat and would cripple the U.S. war effort in Iraq.

"If we do not defeat the terrorists and extremists in Iraq, they will not leave us alone," he said. "They will follow us to the United States of America."

Democrats acknowledge they do not have the votes to overcome a promised presidential veto of any bill that includes a troop withdrawal deadline.

But Democrats are also adamant that the spending bill should reflect the public's dissatisfaction with the war and the fact that Democrats retook control of Congress last year largely on that issue.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan appeared on Fox News Sunday.

"The president was told by the people last November that they want to change course in Iraq," he said. "He has not done it. He has gotten us in deeper militarily although there is no military solution. We are going to try to use this opportunity to change course."

The president's attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, also faces a major challenge this week in convincing members of Congress from both parties that he should remain on the job.

Gonzales is under fire for his role in the controversial firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year and he makes a crucial appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The Justice Department took the unusual step of releasing the attorney general's testimony days in advance. In it, Gonzales apologizes to the eight fired federal prosecutors but defends their removal as legitimate.

Gonzales has admitted making misstatements about what he knew about the prosecutor firings. But he has also argued he has done nothing to warrant his resignation from office, something several Democrats and even some Republicans have demanded.

"Because I accept responsibility and because I am committed to doing my job," he said. "And that is what I intend to do here on behalf of the American people."

Democrats at the hearing are expected to grill Gonzales about his role in the firings and whether the prosecutors were removed for political reasons.

Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president. The system of justice does not serve at the pleasure of any person in this country, it is there for all of us," he said.

Democrats are also expected to press their case that key Bush advisers including Karl Rove testify about their role in the prosecutor firings, something the White House has so far refused.

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