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US Senate Republican Opposition to Bush Strategy in Iraq Continues to Grow


U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe is the latest Senate Republican to break with President Bush on his strategy in Iraq. She is cosponsoring legislation calling for a withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by April of next year. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Senator Snowe, a Maine Republican, says she is backing the legislation because Iraqi leaders have failed to make the necessary compromises toward establishing a unity government.

Under the measure, which has been proposed as an amendment to a defense policy bill, U.S. troops would begin pulling out of Iraq within 120 days.

Several other Republicans have said they would support the measure, including Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on its version of the legislation on Thursday.

The Senate's top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, hopes that growing Republican opposition to the unpopular war will help force a change in strategy in Iraq. He is using the defense bill as a vehicle for that change.

"This Department of Defense authorization bill and the amendments that will be offered to it are the next chance we have to chart a responsible new course out of Iraq," he said.

But it remains to be seen whether enough Republicans back the proposed timeline for a troop withdrawal.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, echoing comments made by President Bush a day earlier, urged lawmakers to wait to assess the war until they receive a briefing from the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, in September.

"We should wait for that assessment before rushing to judgment," he said.

McConnell and other Republican leaders are vowing to try to block anti-war amendments from coming to a vote.

On Wednesday, they successfully blocked an amendment sponsored by Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, which called for requiring active-duty troops to spend as much time at home as they do on deployments. Currently, Army soldiers who deploy for 15 months get just 12 months at home.