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Lawmakers Express Opposition to US Troop Increase in Iraq

As President Bush prepares to announce a temporary increase of some 21,000 American troops to Iraq, many U.S. lawmakers are expressing renewed opposition to such a plan. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Congressional Democrats are making clear they will oppose any short-term surge of U.S. troops to Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Democrats remain skeptical about the effectiveness of sending more troops to Iraq.

"Democrats for certain question in some detail what the additional troops would do," he said. "Speaking for me, I am at a loss as to what will happen with these additional troops."

Reid was among top congressional leaders who met with President Bush at the White House just hours before the president's address to the nation.

Democratic leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives plan to hold symbolic votes on the troop surge proposal to highlight the lack of support for the plan. Many Democrats have called for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Although the Democratic majority could withhold funding for a troop increase, Democratic leaders signaled they would not go that far.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "Democrats will always support our troops."

Republican leaders, meanwhile, emerged from the White House meeting praising the president's new strategy.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, said, "I think the administration has put together a good plan. It is our best shot at victory in Iraq, and I think that is what the American people want and expect."

But not all Republicans agree. Speaking on the Senate floor just moments earlier was Republican Senator Norman Coleman.

"I refuse to put more American lives on the line in Baghdad without being assured that the Iraqis themselves are willing to do what they need to do to end the violence of Iraqi against Iraqi," he said.

"If Iraq is to fulfill its role as a sovereign and democratic state, it must start acting like one. It is for this reason that I oppose the proposal for a troop surge in Baghdad, where violence can only be definded as sectarian," he added.

Top Bush administration officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, will seek congressional support for the new strategy in a series of hearings on Capitol Hill Thursday.