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Democrats Want Changes in Iraq


When leaders of America's Democratic party take charge of Congress in January they say they will press Iraq's government to take more responsibility for its own security. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, President Bush says he is already moving in that direction ahead of planned talks in the coming week with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Following their victory over Republicans in this month's Congressional elections, Democrats say they will push for a change of course in Iraq.

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says his party will work with President Bush and Congressional Republicans to forge a new direction in Iraq, because, he says, the current strategy is not working.

"Sectarian violence continues to rage," he said. "Our brave service men and women continue to be maimed and killed."

"And, the war is not making our nation safer, or more secure. In the days ahead, Iraqis must make the tough decisions, and accept responsibility for their future. And the Iraqis must know our commitment, while great, is not unending," he continued.

Hoyer's Democratic radio address was recorded Wednesday, before the latest round of sectarian violence, which has killed more than 200 people.

President Bush says U.S. troops in Iraq are battling terrorists, who Mr. Bush says would come to the United States, if American forces were to withdraw from Iraq prematurely.

The president says he is working with Iraqi leaders to transfer more responsibility for their own security, but has repeatedly said that decisions about U.S. troop levels there must be made by commanders in the field, and not by politicians in Washington.

The president has met with Hoyer and other Democratic leaders since the election, and both sides have vowed to work together on Iraq.

In the president's weekly radio address, he reflected on this past week's Thanksgiving holiday, saying Americans are grateful for the men and women in uniform who protect American freedoms.

On his way home from an Asian-Pacific economic conference in Vietnam, Mr. Bush met with troops at an Air Force base in Hawaii.

He said, "Our service members there have deployed around the world - to fight the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, conduct important maritime exercises in the Pacific, help deliver humanitarian aid to the victims of disaster and fight drug-trafficking."

"I told the men and women at the base that we're grateful for their bravery and service, and that we will never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice," President Bush added.

The president travels to Europe in the coming week for a summit of the NATO alliance in Latvia. He will then travel to Jordan for talks with the Iraqi prime minister.

U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley says the Bush administration is not looking for what he calls a big, bold announcement from those talks.

Instead, the two men will discuss a joint commission, established to speed the transfer of more responsibility to the Iraqi government, and how regional states can better support it.