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Bush Again Rejects Timetable for Troop Withdrawal


President Bush is again rejecting opposition calls for a timetable to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, saying his new strategy is beginning to reduce sectarian violence. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says his decision to send more American soldiers to Iraq is so far meeting expectations by beginning to reduce sectarian violence in the capital.

"There are still horrific attacks in Iraq, such as the bombings in Baghdad on Wednesday, but the direction of the fight is beginning to shift," said Mr. Bush.

The president is trying to rally support for a war that a majority of Americans now believe is a mistake. A public opinion poll by CBS News says two-thirds of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling the war.

Speaking in the Midwest state of Michigan Friday, Mr. Bush again criticized opposition Democrats for calling for a timetable for troop withdrawal, saying it undercuts U.S. forces at a time when there are signs of progress.

"They have passed bills in the House and the Senate that would impose restrictions on our military commanders and mandate a precipitous withdrawal by an arbitrary date," he added.

President Bush has vowed to veto any timetable for troop withdrawal. As both the House and Senate measures passed by close votes, it is highly unlikely Democrats can find the two-thirds majority needed to override the promised veto.

The president met with Democratic leaders this week to discuss their differences, but neither side showed signs of backing down.

Democrats want a timetable for troop withdrawal because they say it will force Iraq's government to take greater responsibility for its own security and will prevent the president from continuing what they say is an open-ended commitment in Iraq.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate Thursday, Majority Leader Harry Reid said it is time for a new direction.

"As long as we follow the president's path in Iraq, the war is lost. But there is still a chance to change course, and we must change course," said Mr. Reid.

Acknowledging that Democrats are unlikely to drop their demands for a troop withdrawal, President Bush says they should send him their legislation quickly so he can veto it and get Congress back to work on a spending bill without such a deadline.

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