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US Officials Urge Speedy Action on Iraq/Afghan Funding Request - 2003-09-09

Top U.S. officials called Tuesday for speedy action on President Bush's request for additional funds for military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the administration rejects the idea that additional U.S. forces are needed in Iraq.

Appearing before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, senior administration officials urged Congress to act quickly to approve President Bush's request for boosted funding in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said quick action on the presidential spending request will send a clear message to those Iraqis fighting the U.S. presence in Iraq.

"The sooner these terrorists and Baathists understand clearly that our will can't be broken, and that the Iraqi people, despite hardship and difficulty, will persevere in building their new society, the sooner we will win," he said. "That is why it is so urgent that Congress pass this supplemental request, and I would encourage speedy action when the request is formally submitted."

In a televised address Sunday evening, President Bush announced he would ask Congress for an additional $87 billion for U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Wolfowitz said the bulk of the money, $66 billion, is earmarked for the U.S. military operations. The remaining amount is to go to reconstruction, including $5 billion for building Iraqi security forces.

But the officials balked at the suggestion, most notably from Senator John McCain, that more U.S. troops are needed in Iraq.

General Richard Myers, the country's top U.S. military officer, says more foreign troops need to be brought in to help until Iraqi security forces can be built up to take over the job themselves.

"This is an international problem. International terrorism is an international problem. And every time an Iraqi turns around, they can't just see a U.S. service member," he said. "They don't want foreigners in their country, and particularly there is some allergy from time to time against the U.S. And so we need to internationalize it."

The Bush administration, which had originally rejected any significant political or military role for the United Nations in Iraq, is now seeking a new Security Council resolution that would pave the way for other countries to contribute forces. Some nations are wary of making any military or financial commitment in Iraq without a new U.N. mandate. Under the U.S. proposal, the force would be multinational in makeup but under U.S. command.