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Compromise on US Bill Funding Iraq War Remains Elusive


Closed door negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders on a bill to continue funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended Friday without agreement. Both sides still hope to reach a deal by the end of the month, as VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers and administration officials failed to break a deadlock on President Bush's request for more than $90 billion that he says is needed to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Bush earlier this month vetoed a war funding bill because it also included a timeline for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

In talks on Friday, Democrats offered a concession to the president, giving him the authority to waive the timeline. That was rejected by White House chief of staff Josh Bolten.

"The Democratic leaders did talk about having timelines for withdrawal that might be waivable," said Bolten. "We consider that to be not a significant distinction. Whether waivable or not, timelines send exactly the wrong signal to our adversaries, to our allies, and most importantly to the troops in the field."

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio offered similar comments.

"Our colleagues across the aisle continue to insist on having 'surrender dates' in the supplemental spending bill," he said.

Democrats said the administration and Republicans did not appear willing to compromise. Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is Senate majority leader.

"To say I was disappointed in the meeting is an understatement," he said.

Reid noted that public opinion polls show a majority of Americans favor a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The House last week passed legislation that would fund the wars in two month installments, prompting another veto threat from the president.

Democratic lawmakers plan to draft another proposal to present to the White House early next week. They hope the White House will not find it objectionable so that Congress can pass the measure and send it to Mr. Bush for his signature by the end of the month.

On a related matter, White House chief of staff Bolten expressed support for a proposal by the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner of Virginia, that calls for cutting U.S. aid to the Iraqi government if President Bush certifies it has not met certain political and security benchmarks.

The president has signaled he is prepared to consider such benchmarks to gauge progress by the Iraqi government, but he has rejected the idea of linking benchmarks to U.S. troop withdrawals.

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