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House Democratic Leader Criticizes Bush's Iraq Policy - 2004-01-17

The top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives is calling on President Bush to use his State of the Union address next week to explain how he plans to stabilize Iraq and ensure the transition to a democratic government there.

As President Bush prepares to deliver his State of the Union message to Congress on Tuesday, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California offered Friday sharp criticism of his administration's Iraq policy.

"Nowhere do we see the dangerous consequences of the president's distorted priorities more than in our efforts in Iraq," she said. "At every stage of this endeavor, the president's policies toward Iraq have been marked by confusion and uncertainty, uncertainty and changing rationales about why we invaded Iraq, uncertainty about how to stabilize Iraq after the end of major combat operations, and now uncertainty and changing plans, practically on a daily basis, about how to transition to a stable, democratic Iraqi government."

In a speech in Washington, Congresswoman Pelosi called on Mr. Bush to explain how he plans to ensure that the U.S.-led effort in Iraq will lead to a democratic government at peace with its neighbors.

She also urged him to spell out how he plans to repair relations with U.S. allies angered over his Iraq policy.

On other foreign policy issues, Congresswoman Pelosi was critical of the president's handling of North Korea and the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.

"The president has not done an adequate job dealing directly with the nuclear threat from North Korea, has not done an adequate job keeping weapons of mass destruction and their components out of the hands of terrorists, and has not done enough to secure poorly-guarded nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and materials around the world," she said.

Ms. Pelosi urged the president to use Tuesday's speech to explain how he plans to secure such weapons before the fall into the hands of terrorists.

The House Democratic leader was joined by her Senate counterpart, Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who focused on the president's economic policies. He said Mr. Bush's tax cut package has only benefited wealthy Americans, and has done little to create jobs.

"These policies have created an economic flood for a few, while prolonging an economic drought for many," said Mr. Daschle.

Senator Daschle and Congresswoman Pelosi are to jointly deliver the Democratic response to the president's State of the Union address Tuesday night.