The U.S. Senate has expressed its objection to any amnesty granted by the Iraqi government to Iraqis who kill U.S. troops. The non-binding vote came as senators consider how soon American soldiers should leave Iraq.
In a sense-of-the-Senate resolution, lawmakers voted 79 to 19 to express their opposition to any amnesty given to Iraqis who attack U.S. troops.
Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, sponsored the amendment, which is attached to a defense authorization bill:
"There should be no amnesty for those who murder American troops," said Bill Nelson.
The debate came amid reports that two American soldiers had been found tortured and killed in Iraq.
Senators from both parties expressed anger over the deaths.
But the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia - while condemning what he called the mutilation of two brave American soldiers - objected to the proposed amendment, saying it undermined the sovereignty of the new Iraqi government.
"If we are to attain what we hope is our goal of giving that nation its sovereign right, we cannot be dictating to them how they reach their final decisions," said John Warner.
In separate action, the Senate voted 64 to 34 to commend the new Iraqi government for not granting amnesty - a Republican-sponsored amendment.
The two amendments stem from a report last week in The Washington Post newspaper, which quoted a top Iraqi official saying a reconciliation plan announced by the Iraqi government would likely include pardons for those who had attacked members of the U.S. military.
Iraqi leaders have since denied the report.
Besides the Senate amendments on amnesty, lawmakers also previewed a debate they plan for later this week on how long U.S. troops should stay in Iraq.
One proposal sponsored by Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged President Bush for the White House in 2004, would pull U.S. forces out of Iraq within a year.
Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, says the measure would send an important message to the Iraqi government:
"We will give you 12 months and more American lives and more American dollars, and then, Iraq, you have to stand up and defend yourself," said Dick Durbin.
But other Democrats, seeking to deflect Republican criticism that they are the party of "cutting and running" from Iraq, are proposing to begin pulling out troops this year, but avoiding setting a deadline for complete withdrawal.
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan is the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee:
"Three and a half years into the conflict, we should tell the Iraqis that the American security blanket is not permanent," said Carl Levin. "Beginning a phased redeployment this year will add incentives for the Iraqis to make the hard compromises necessary to bring their country together to secure it."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, rejected any proposal calling for troop withdrawal at this time, saying it would only embolden insurgents.
"We cannot retreat, we cannot surrender, we cannot go wobbly," said Bill Frist. "The price is far too high. The strength we show now is the security we earn for the future."
Frist also underscored the divisions among Democrats over Iraq - a strategy Republicans are expected to continue ahead of November's congressional elections.
Last week, the Republican-led House of Representatives, following heated debate over the Iraq war, rejected a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.