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Democrats, Republicans Interpret Petraeus Briefing Differently

Democrats and Republicans are offering differing accounts of a briefing from General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, lawmakers met with Petraeus ahead of a vote in the House of Representatives on a war-funding bill containing a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Emerging from the briefing, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said information General Petraeus provided supports what everyone agrees on, that the Iraqi government needs to move quickly toward a political solution.

And he says the briefing also buttresses the determination of Democrats to force the president to accept a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces. "Our belief that we must hold the Iraqis accountable for achieving real progress, and establish a timetable for the responsible redeployment of American forces, was also reinforced," he said.

Hoyer also quoted Petraeus as having told lawmakers that sectarian violence, rather than attacks by al-Qaida, is the most disruptive element in Iraq at this time.

Republicans appear to have come away from the meeting with a different impression.

Minority leader John Boehner describes General Petraeus as feeling good about progress so far of the U.S. troop surge, and the performance of Iraqi troops, although much more needs to be done by their government.

A somewhat blunter readout came from Congressman Duncan Hunter: "General Petraeus made it very clear that while we are making progress, he portrays this as a difficult challenge and didn't try to sugar-coat the issue and the problems that face the American forces there," he said.

Hunter sharply criticized a provision in the Democrat-crafted war funding bill requiring a 15 day waiting period before U.S. units can be deployed to Iraq, saying this would impose unacceptable restrictions on the military's flexibility to act.

General Petraeus came to the microphone himself to brief reporters on military progress on the ground in Iraq. "We are actually ahead of where I wanted to be in some areas, and probably behind where we might have hoped to be in some other areas," he said.

Petraeus pointed to what he called "breathtaking" progress in al-Anbar province, the focus of part of the U.S. military surge, but said that while some progress has been made in preventing car bombings, more needs to be done.

Remarks by lawmakers on their meeting with General Petraeus came as the House prepared to debate the conference report on the Iraq-Afghanistan funding bill.

While Democrats predict passage in the House and Senate, the legislation faces a veto by President Bush because it calls for the withdrawal of U.S. forces to begin by October, and to end no later than April 1 of 2008.

If he does veto the legislation, majority leader Hoyer said, the president would be ignoring the will of the American people.

The Senate is due to take up the funding measure on Thursday.