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White House, Congress Begin Negotiations on War Funding Bill


Negotiations are under way between the White House and the U.S. Congress on a revised war funding bill. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports President Bush is emphasizing the need to find common ground, and find it quickly.

Less the 24 hours after President Bush vetoed a war funding bill that included a timeline for a troop withdrawal, work began on a replacement piece of legislation.

As he sat down with congressional leaders, Mr. Bush said it is time to move away from the political battles of recent days.

"Yesterday was a day that highlighted differences," he said. "Today is a day where we can work together to find common ground.

The president struck a positive tone as the session with top lawmakers got under way. He said his intentions are serious, and announced that three of his top advisers would be detailed to work with members of both political parties to craft an acceptable war funding bill.

"I think it is very important to do this as quickly as we possibly can," he said. "I am confident that we can reach agreement. I know it will require goodwill, but we all care."

Earlier, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow told reporters that while the president is approaching the talks with Congress in a collegial manner, he will refuse to compromise on key principles. Snow made clear that under no circumstance will Mr. Bush accept a bill that includes a timetable or target date for a U.S. troop withdrawal.

"The purpose of this bill is - it's an emergency supplemental bill - to finance ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "You have to do that in a way that will allow you to conduct effectively ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Participants in the White House meeting told reporters that the session dealt primary with logistics, and there was no discussion of the thorny issues that have divided the Bush administration and the Democratic-Party led Congress.

Republican leaders said they had agreed on a procedure for talks, and hope to get the job done by the end of the month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was also pleased with the tone of the meeting, but emphasized Democrats were right to take a legislative stand against the president's war policy.

"Make no mistake, Democrats are committed to ending this war, and we hope to do so in unison with the president of the United States," she said.

The meeting took place less than an hour after Democrats tried and failed to muster the two-thirds majority vote needed to override the president's veto of their original war spending bill. That piece of legislation totaled about $124 billion, with $100 billion earmarked for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also ordered the administration to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq no later than October.

Senior Democrats have indicated they will not include a troop pull-out timeline in any replacement bill. But there are indications they may include language that would set benchmarks - or specific goals - for the Iraqi government.

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