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    Bush Presses Congress for Iraq War Funding

    President Bush is pressing Congress to approve his latest budget request for the war in Iraq, where he says leaders are beginning to make progress toward political reconciliation. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

    When Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break, President Bush wants quick action on more supplemental funding for the war in Iraq, without the preconditions of a troop withdrawal being pushed by Democrats.

    Members of the president's political party in the Senate last week blocked efforts by opposition Democrats to link $50 billion in war funding to the goal of withdrawing combat troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

    Approval of the funding failed when Democrats blocked a Republican bill that would have allocated $70 billion to the war without conditions.

    President Bush says some U.S. troops are coming home, and more will follow next year because of improved security that he says is partly the result of his decision to send reinforcements to Iraq earlier this year.

    Those U.S. troops were meant to give Iraqi leaders time to reach political compromises on sharing oil revenue and allowing members of Saddam Hussein's former political party to rejoin the government. Neither of those measures have passed parliament.

    In a Tuesday interview with ABC News, President Bush was asked about the pace of reconciliation and comments from an American army captain who said coalition troops cannot themselves reconcile Iraqi politicians.

    "Sunni sheiks are stepping up and beginning to take the lead at the local level," said President Bush. "The captain's remarks are true in this sense: the Iraqis are going to have to obviously take the lead politically, which they are beginning to do."

    Asked if he took some satisfaction that less than one year after the troop surge, levels of violence in Iraq appear to be declining in many areas, the president said: "absolutely."

    "The decision, while it was a tough decision, was really studied, and it was based upon the recommendations of wise military commanders," said Mr. Bush.

    Part of improving security in Iraq is dependent on neighboring Iran, which has political influence in the south and U.S. military commanders say has armed some militants.

    The U.S. military says it has agreed to a new round of talks with Iran about improving security in Iraq. In recent weeks, American commanders say Iran appears to be restricting the flow of weapons across the border.

    The United States and Iran have held three rounds of talks on Iraqi security this year, breaking a 27-year freeze in diplomatic ties. The meetings do not appear to have made much progress, with each side still blaming the other for Iraqi violence.

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