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Bush Reaffirms Intention to Veto War Funding Bill Containing Timetable

President Bush warned Congress Friday that he will continue vetoing war spending bills as long as they contain a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. From Washington, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Speaking at Camp David, the Maryland presidential retreat, a day after Congress approved legislation that calls for U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq by October 1, Mr. Bush repeated that he will veto the measure as soon as it lands on his desk.

"The reason why I'm going to is because the members of Congress have made military decisions on behalf of the military. They are telling our generals what to do. They are withdrawing before we've even finished reinforcing our troops in Baghdad. They are sending, in my judgment, a bad message to the Iraqis, to an enemy, and most importantly to our military folks," said Mr. Bush.

The bill includes about $95 billion to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September 30. It also calls for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq beginning in October, or earlier, if President Bush determines the Iraqis have not met certain benchmarks, including disarming militias and taking steps toward political reconciliation among the government's factions.

The bill sets a non-binding goal of completing a withdrawal of combat troops by April 1 of next year. President Bush is firmly against setting troop withdrawal timetables.

"If the Congress wants to test my will as to whether or not I'll accept a timetable for withdrawal, I won't accept one. I just don't think it's in the interest of our troops," he said.

Mr. Bush made the remarks at a news conference alongside visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is on his first visit to the United States.

In Baghdad, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Thursday that October 1 is too soon to begin a U.S. withdrawal. In Washington, Iraq's ambassador, Samir Sumaida'ie, told VOA that setting a withdrawal date sends the wrong message.

"Of course we respect the debate that takes place in the United States, this is part of the democratic process, and we don't really want to interfere in the process as such. But we believe that any setting of dates for withdrawal is going to give the wrong signal to the terrorists and to the Iraqis," he said.

Once President Bush has carried through on his veto threat, Democratic leaders say they will send him a new bill, most likely one without a withdrawal timetable. But it would contain other consequences if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks.