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Democrats Call for Attention to Iraq Study Group Findings


U.S. President George Bush continues to consider options for what he says will be a new way forward in Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, a bipartisan panel of senior officials is urging Mr. Bush to withdraw most U.S. combat forces over the coming year.

Former Defense Secretary William Perry says America is being torn apart by the controversy over the conduct of the war in Iraq, which he says could become a quagmire reminiscent of the Vietnam War, unless President Bush changes course.

"Each month, 50 to 100 U.S. military personnel are being killed, and hundreds more maimed or wounded. Each month, 2,000 to 3,000 Iraqis are being killed and thousands more wounded," he said.

Perry led the Pentagon under President Bill Clinton, and served on the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which is urging President Bush to pull out most combat troops by early 2008 and engage in more direct talks with Iran and Syria over improving Iraqi security.

President Bush is considering that group's report along with analysis from the Pentagon and State Department in deciding on what he says will be a new direction for Iraq that he will announce early next year.

While White House officials say the president is considering all options, Mr. Bush has previously ruled out direct talks with Iran, until it stops enriching uranium and says there will be no dialogue with Syria, until it stops undermining democracy in neighboring Lebanon.

The president has also rejected setting a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, saying that would ultimately make violence worse, as insurgents would simply wait for American forces to leave.

In the Democrats' weekly radio address, Perry said there could be a spike in Iraqi violence following the withdrawal of U.S. troops, but he says that could happen whether the withdrawal is in five months or five years.

He says the report by the Iraq Study Group, or ISG, is meant to give the president a candid assessment of the challenges ahead and suggestions for the way forward with 79 recommendations.

"I wish I had a more positive report to give you, but dealing with this intractable problem must begin by swallowing a strong dose of reality," he added. "And, if our report accomplishes nothing else, it will force the country to face that reality. I believe that the ISG report will frame the debate in our country this coming year, and it will demonstrate that it is possible, even in the poisonous political climate that now exists, to address important national problems in a truly bipartisan manner."

In the president's weekly radio address, Mr. Bush heralded good economic news, with a slight rise in hourly wages. He also vowed to work with Democrats who will take charge of Congress next year to eliminate wasteful spending.