Bush to Seek US Public Support for Iraq



President Bush is traveling across the United States this week for a series of speeches focusing on Iraq and terrorism. Mr. Bush will be seeking to build public support for his policies as war casualties mount, and Iraqi officials struggle to complete a new constitution.

The first stop for the president is the state of Utah, where he addresses the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The trip comes at a time when polls show support for his handling of Iraq is slipping. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says Mr. Bush must make his case for continued involvement in Iraq once again to the American people.

Speaking on the Fox News Sunday television program, Senator Graham said, nobody wants to withdraw U.S. forces now, but he added he detects a growing level of concern among his constituents. He said the president must emphasize America's security is directly tied to success in Iraq.

"This is a major moment in the development of the Mideast. It is a major moment in the Iraqi people's development. And it is a major moment in our national security," said Mr. Graham. "We need to get this right. This decision about to be made in Iraq regarding a constitution is hugely important to us."

The road to the new Iraqi constitution has proven rocky, with differences remaining on key issues such as the role of Islam, and federalism.

On CNN's Late Edition, an Iraqi government spokesman appeared hopeful Monday's extended deadline can be met. Laith Kubba indicated negotiators could submit a draft document with a few issues left for a later time, or perhaps ask for a second extension of the deadline to complete their negotiations. He said they are determined to succeed and present a constitution the Iraqi people can support.

"What they do not want to see is a draft constitution that will be rejected by their constituencies, or by other parts of Iraq," explained Mr. Kubba. "They are keen to see a draft that will be accepted with a big 'yes' in Iraq. This is difficult to achieve, but that is where they are today."

Speaking on the same television news program, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee stressed the stakes are high for Iraq. Michigan's Carl Levin said the Bush administration needs to send a strong message to Baghdad that Iraq's fate is in the hands of those entrusted to write its constitution.

"We cannot impose anything on them. We have opened a door for them to walk through," added Mr. Levin. "If they don't walk through it, then the reason for us being there, it seems to me, is gone."

But Senator Levin stopped short of demanding an immediate timetable for U.S. forces to withdraw. Appearing on ABC's This Week program, a prominent Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said, the White House needs to outline a clear exit strategy - a detailed plan for completing the military mission in Iraq. Republican Chuck Hagel warned that public support for the president's policy is shaky. In his words: "the dam has burst."

"We should start figuring out how we get out of there, with this understanding: we cannot leave a vacuum that destabilizes the Middle East," he said.

Mr. Hagel is a Vietnam War veteran. He said there are many differences between that conflict and the current situation in Iraq. But he said the longer the United States stays in Iraq, the more similar they become.

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