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Bush Suffers Setback in Congress on Terror Tribunals


Key Republicans in the U.S. Senate have defied President Bush's plan on how to try and treat terror suspects.

In a 15-9 vote, the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday approved a bill that would give prisoners more legal rights than the president wants.

Four Republican Party members, including committee chairman John Warner and the panel's Democratic Party members, rejected the president's appeal for a system that bypasses international treaties on the humane treatment of prisoners during interrogation.

The bill will now go to the full Senate for its vote, perhaps as early as next week.

Earlier Thursday, the president visited Capitol Hill to make a private appeal to Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives for his version of the legislation. Unlike the Senate, a House committee has approved a version of the legislation the president likes.

Mr. Bush's legislation was also criticized by his former secretary of state, Colin Powell, as well as Senator John McCain, a Republican lawmaker who sided with Democrats on the Armed Services Committee.

In a letter to McCain Thursday, Powell argued that "the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis" of the fight against terrorism. He said Mr. Bush's proposals would add to those doubts.

Powell also echoed a concern that looser controls on interrogating prisoners would put U.S. soldiers detained abroad at risk.

McCain voiced similar sentiments while saying the committee's opposition to the president had nothing to do with politics.

The defiance from Mr. Bush's fellow party members comes as lawmakers prepare for key congressional elections in November, in which Republicans hope to keep control of both houses of Congress.

Mr. Bush has spent the past few weeks delivering a series of speeches outlining what he calls progress in the war against terrorism and calling for tougher legislation to carry out his goals.

Democrats have accused Mr. Bush of focusing on terrorism and new legislation to divert attention from the war in Iraq. Americans are becoming increasingly opposed to U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.