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US Lawmakers Urge Bush to Heed Iraq Recommendations

Members of Congress say they hope President Bush gives serious consideration to recommendations by the independent Iraq Study Group. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, Democrats, who will take control of Congress in January, are reiterating their readiness to work with the president and Republicans.

As they detailed 79 recommendations, members of the study group emphasized their report may be the only bipartisan assessment the president will receive on what to do next in Iraq.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who will be the speaker of house when the new Congress convenes in January, says if President Bush is serious about the need for change, he will find Democrats ready to work with him, in her words, to find a way to end the war as quickly as possible.

At the same time, Pelosi says the report shows that proposals Democrats have been making in direct appeals to the president have been correct.

These include the suggestion Democrats made in several letters to the White House, that the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq must shift from combat, to training and support:

"They began [the report] by saying we must transition our troops out of Iraq, we begin by changing the mission," she said. "Democrats have been saying that all along."

Incoming Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says the report reflects what Americans have known for some time:

He said, "It is clear now that there is no one in America, perhaps [except for] the president, who believes that staying the course is a viable policy."

With Democrats assuming the majority in January, some reaction had a distinctly partisan flavor. Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey said the Iraq Study Group report is, in his words, throwing [President Bush] a life raft.

On the floor of the Senate, Republican John Warner emphasized the bipartisan nature of the report:

He said, "The debate on Iraq, the debate on Afghanistan, the debate on our security matters, should always ring in this chamber with voices that have differing views."

"And how well we know the difficulty, particularly in this most controversial war, the difficult of reaching a consensus. They did it," he continued.

Senator Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, describes the report as a verdict that current strategy is failing, and urges the president to heed its recommendations:

"The only question is whether the White House will heed this clarion call and agree to change the perilous course that we have been on in Iraq since Saddam Hussein fell and the chaos began," he said.

Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware says he has concerns about what the report does not say regarding efforts by the Iraqi government for a political settlement:

He said, "Again it comes down to how do you implement the Iraqi constitution and do we stand with it, and do we insist that there be a strong central government and as they stand up we will stand down."

In comments before the report's formal release, President Bush referred to the importance of congressional consideration of the findings.

Among other things, the report recommends that future spending requests for Iraq be included in the administration's regular annual budget, beginning with the 2008 fiscal year that begins next October.

The Bush administration has submitted what are called supplemental requests. Another of these, estimated at between $130 to 160 billion, is expected early next year.

The study group says such requests circumvent the budget normal process and erode congressional powers of oversight.

The report also urges the Bush administration to work closely with congressional committees to assess not only the overall future budgetary impact of the war in Iraq, but its impact on future U.S. military readiness.

The group's co-chairmen, former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, and others say they expect to be testifying before congressional hearings when the new session of Congress convenes.