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Key US Senators Agree on Resolution Against Bush's Iraq Plan

U.S. Senate Democratic and Republican leaders have reached a deal on a nonbinding resolution expressing disagreement with President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

The compromise resolution expresses disagreement with President Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq. It does not include language that had been in a competing resolution calling the troop increase not in the national interest.

The compromise language - reached by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner of Virginia and Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, respectively - is aimed at attracting more Republican support in the Senate, where Democrats have a thin majority.

At a confirmation hearing to consider the nomination of General George Casey to be Army chief of staff, Warner underscored his opposition to the troop surge plan as he questioned the nominee:

WARNER: "Why are we not putting more emphasis on the utilization or Iraqi forces and less on the U.S. GI being put into that cauldron of terror?"

CASEY: "I would say, senator that we are relying more on Iraqis, forcing the Iraqis to take a more leading role in resolving the situation in Baghdad. They came up with the plan. They will lead the plan."

The Warner-Levin resolution, which does not have the force of law, received support from Senator Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Biden said called the measure an important first step aimed at pressing President Bush to abandon his troop increase plan.

"If the president does not listen to the majority of congress, and I expect a majority of congress to vote for our resolution, if he does not respond to a majority in congress and the majority of the American people, we will have to look to other ways to change his policies," he said.

But the resolution faces opposition on both sides of the political aisle.

Senator Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, believes the measure goes too far.

"We must work together collectively on advancing our national interest instead of splintering off and playing into the hands of our enemies," he said. "Some of the proposed resolutions on Iraq send a terrible message to both our troops and our allies, and only hurt our national interest. Even more importantly, I believe they send a dangerous message to our enemies."

Senator Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, argues that the resolution does not go far enough, because it does not call for the start of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq nor does it allow for congress to withhold funds for military mission.

"The legislation that my good friends John Warner and Carl Levin and others have reached a compromise on last evening is with all due respect essentially an endorsement of the status quo," he explained. "For that reason, I cannot support it."

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft cautioned that the resolution would send the wrong message that the United States is not united on the war.

"The Congress' role is unlikely to be helpful in the direction it is going, in the sense that what you send is signals abroad that if they just push a little harder, then the president may have to change his mind," he said.

But former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said the resolution would make clear that the president is out of step with Congress and the American people, whom public opinion polls show also oppose the troop surge.

He warned of dire consequences for the United States if it continues on its course in Iraq.

"If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted, bloody involvement in Iraq, and I emphasize what I am about to say, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran, and with much of the world of Islam at large," he said. "A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks, followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or terrorist act in the United States blamed on Iran, culminating in a 'defensive military action' against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading a deepening quagmire, eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan."

At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow urged Congress to give the president's troop increase plan a chance to work.

"We've got a way forward that acknowledges all the faults and defects of previous plans that you have noted and others have noted," he said. "This is not an attempt to ignore problems. It is a commitment to address them. As Congress thinks about this, we would also expect members to take a very careful look at how this program proceeds, not expecting overnight results because nothing can yield overnight results."

The Senate is expected to formally debate the Iraq resolution next week.