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Bush Looking Forward to Meeting Lawmakers to Discuss Iraq

President Bush says he is looking forward to meeting with Congressional leaders to discuss funding for the Iraq war. Tuesday, Mr. Bush vetoed funding legislation that would have provided money for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq because the measure included a timetable for a troop withdrawal from Iraq, something Democrats have been insisting on. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says there is no easy way out of Iraq. He vetoed a spending measure that would force him to start withdrawing troops by October, because he says leaving now would bring short-term satisfaction at the cost of long-term disaster.

"Al-Qaida terrorists who behead captives and order suicide bombings in Iraq would not simply be satisfied to see us gone," said president Bush. "A retreat in Iraq would mean that they would likely follow us here. A retreat in Iraq would say to a lot people around the world, particularly in the Middle East, that America cannot keep its word."

In a speech to a convention of general contractors, the president again sought to link the war in Iraq with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He said his new strategy for success in Iraq is beginning to show significant progress in reducing sectarian violence.

"The terrorists will continue to fight back," he said. "In other words, they understand what they are doing. And casualties are likely to stay high. Yet day by day, block by block, we are steadfast in helping Iraqi leaders counter the terrorists, protect their people, and reclaim the capital."

A public opinion poll by CBS News and the New York Times says more than 70 percent of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling the war. Two-thirds of those surveyed support setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The president meets with congressional leaders later Wednesday to discuss a possible compromise. White House Spokesman Tony Snow says if Democrats come with another timetable for troop withdrawal, they will get another veto.

Because the measure passed the House and Senate by close votes, it is highly unlikely Democrats can find the two-thirds majority needed to override the presidential veto. Party leaders say they will not back down.

Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett says Democrats are determined to end what he says is the president's failed approach.

"The president can veto our plan for a safe, orderly, phased redeployment from Iraq, but he cannot veto reality," said Doggett. "Our troops are coming home. It is just a question of how much blood and money will be spent before they do."

President Bush says he is confident that with goodwill on both sides Republicans and Democrats can move beyond political statements and agree on a bill that gives troops the funds and flexibility they need.