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US House of Representatives Votes for April 2008 Iraq Withdrawal Target


The House of Representatives has approved a resolution calling for the withdrawal of most U.S. combat forces from Iraq by April of 2008. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, action by the Democratic-controlled House by a vote of 223 to 201 came as the Senate continues debate on Iraq-related amendments.

The measure demands that most U.S. combat forces leave Iraq by April 1 of next year, with the withdrawal process to begin within 120 days.

President Bush would have to report to Congress on any U.S. forces remaining for what are called limited purposes such as protection of diplomats and training Iraqi troops.

Referring to what he called "strategic mistakes" in Iraq, Democratic Congressman Ike Skelton said Congress cannot wait until September, when it is due to receive the next report on Iraq.

"We haven't got time for the waiting game, that is where we are now," said Ike Skelton. "The purpose of this is a matter of readiness, it is a matter of national security, it is a matter that we must face now or else the strain and stretch on our ground forces, particularly our Army and of course the Marines will be beyond repair."

Debate took place against the background of the Bush administration's interim report on Iraq, which says the Iraqi government made satisfactory progress on just eight of 18 political, military and economic benchmarks.

Republicans sought to put a positive spin on the report, with Congressman Duncan Hunter urging lawmakers not to vote to change policy until the September report from U.S. Iraq commander General David Petraeus.

"This is an attempt once again to stampede a retreat from Iraq, and it is a gratuitous attempt to do this," said Congressman Hunter.

House Foreign Affairs chairman Tom Lantos suggested that far from demonstrating progress, the administration report on Iraq reflects setbacks.

"With every car bomb that takes civilian toll, every insurgent's bullet that finds it mark, every roadside explosive that maims or kills one of our own brave men and women in uniform, the sacrifices mount and the result is anything but satisfactory," said Tom Lantos.

Before the final vote, House Republican minority leader John Boehner made a final appeal to lawmakers to vote against the measure, asserting it would embolden al-Qaida in Iraq, and terrorists around the world.

"This bill we have before us makes our troops pawns in a partisan political battle," said Boehner. "I don't think that is what anyone wants. I think this bill undermines General Petraeus, undermines the mission he has to make Iraq and America safe."

Here is the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

"After more than 3,600 lives have been lost to a flawed strategy, we have a responsibility to create a new direction," said Nancy Pelosi. "To those who urge that we wait until September, I say it has been four and a half years and a half trillion dollars at least. We have already waited too long."

This is the second time the House has voted for a specific withdrawal target date. President Bush vetoed legislation approved by the House and Senate earlier this year that tied war funding to a timetable.

The president has promised to veto any new such legislation reaching his desk and would likely have enough support on Capitol Hill to sustain a veto.

In his comments accompanying the release of the interim progress report, President Bush reiterated his view that the U.S. can still succeed in Iraq, urged patience and said he considers history's judgment of his actions more important than public opinion polls.

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