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President Bush Meets Congressional Leaders to Discuss War Funding Bill


President Bush has met with the Democratic Party Congressional leaders to discuss the Iraq war and a pending bill to fund the U.S. military mission through September. President Bush has vowed to veto the bill because it imposes a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops. More from VOA's Bill Rodgers.

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill set timetables for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq. The House version would order combat troops out by September 2008, while the Senate bill is less sweeping but still sets dates.

The Democratically-controlled House and Senate set these conditions in narrow votes last month as part of legislation to continue funding the military mission.

But President Bush says he will veto the war funding bill because it contains timetables. This standoff was the subject of Wednesday's meeting with Congressional leaders at the White House.

As the meeting began, Mr. Bush said he will listen to all viewpoints. "People have strong opinions around the table, and I'm willing to listen to them. I've got my own opinion which I'm more than willing to share. The whole objective is to figure out how best to get our troops funding, to get the money they need."

Following the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he urged Mr. Bush to sign the bill. "We are in a position where we believe we are doing the right thing for the people of this country, the majority of the Congress and the military."

For her part, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also urged Mr. Bush to go along with the bill, but indicated there is some room for negotiation. "I think the conversation that we had is the basis for future conversations on this. But each side was very clear with its position but that doesn't mean that that is the end of the conversation. And that is what is known as a negotiation in government, it is not just one meeting."

Congressional Democrats are divided over how far to press forward with linking the troop withdrawal to the funding bill. Some want to use the bill as a tool to pressure Mr. Bush to accept a withdrawal timetable, while others are reluctant.

Republican Congressional leaders said after the meeting that no matter what the Democrats want, President Bush will not yield. House Minority Leader John Boehner said, "I thought the president was clear with the Democrats about what he would and wouldn't do. And he clearly is not going to sign a bill that handcuffs our troops and adds these tens of billions of dollars of unnecessary spending that are part of this bill. But at the same time, I think he was open to listening to the concerns of the Democrats, what they had to say, and it was a very polite meeting."

Meanwhile, in Iraq, a series of bomb blasts has killed more than 170 people in Baghdad. The deadliest car bomb attacks took place mainly in Shi'ite areas of the Iraqi capital.

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