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Bush, Democrats Discuss Iraq War Funding


President Bush met with congressional Democrats at the White House Wednesday to discuss their differences over funding wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports that the president says he will veto legislation passed by Democrats in the House and Senate because it includes timetables for a troop withdrawal from Iraq.

President Bush told reporters before the meeting that he expects this will be one of many conversations with opposition legislators about how to fund the war in Iraq.

"People have strong opinions around the table, and I am looking forward to listening to them," said Mr. Bush. "I've got my own opinion, which I am more than willing to share. The whole objective is to figure out how best to get our troops funded, get the money they need to do the job that I have asked them to do."

Democrats say their legislation supplies all the money President Bush is asking for. The obstacle is a timetable for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq if the government there does not meet certain benchmarks.

Democrats say the deadlines hold Iraq's government accountable for more of its own security and force the president to stop what they say is an open-ended commitment in Iraq.

President Bush promises to veto that legislation because he says timetables for a troop withdrawal would embolden the enemy and limit the flexibility of U.S. commanders on the ground.

Following their talks, it was clear that the president and Democrats in Congress remain at odds over the funding.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she appreciates that the president took the time to hear their views.

"It's about accountability," she noted. "As I say, it gives the president all of the benchmarks that he himself proposed, and all of the benchmarks regarding the Iraqi government that he has endorsed. It does so, though, with an element of accountability. We cannot give the president a blank check, but we are willing to work with him to come to agreement."

A public opinion poll by the newspaper USA Today says 57 percent of Americans favor a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

President Bush says Democrats are trying to score political points, so he says they should get him the bill as soon as possible so he can veto it and get legislators back to work on a spending bill without deadlines.

The House and Senate measures passed in close votes, making it highly unlikely Democrats could find the two-thirds majority needed to override the president's promised veto.

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