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Bush to Speak About Iraq Power Transfer - 2004-05-23

President Bush delivers a speech Monday on plans for the transfer of power in Iraq. It will be an unusual evening address delivered from an Army facility in Pennsylvania.

It will be the first in a series of six speeches leading up to the hand-over of political sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government on June 30.

These speeches are part of an all out-effort by the White House to shift the focus from recent setbacks in Iraq, to prospects for a democratic future for the Iraqi people.

At a time when ongoing violence in Iraq is sharing headlines with the scandal surrounding the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, President Bush will look ahead to the post-occupation era.

Mr. Bush will speak at the Army War College, a school run by the U.S. army that offers classes in security and foreign policy matters. He is expected to use this address to draw together all the various aspects of his Iraq policy, with an emphasis on transition plans.

Some of the themes will be familiar. The president is likely to emphasize once again his commitment to the June 30 date, and his determination to see a strong democracy emerge.

A leading member of the Senate Armed Services Committee is urging Mr. Bush to provide increased security during the transition by sending in more troops. South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told the Fox News Sunday television program that the overall size of the military should increase.

"It is clear to me not just in Iraq, but when you look at Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea and all the obligations of this country, we are putting too much pressure on the men and women in uniform," he said. "We need more of them sooner rather than later."

Appearing on the same program, Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton of New York added to the call for more troops.

"We have to face the fact we need a larger active duty military," she said. "We cannot continue to stretch our troops, both active duty and guard [National Guard] and reserve to the breaking point, which is what we are doing now."

On NBC's Meet the Press, California Republican Duncan Hunter, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, offered a different view. He said the United States should be making more of an effort now to transfer security duties to Iraqis.

"Along with the political hand-off, we have got to make a military hand-off," said Mr. Hunter. "It is time to put some weight on the shoulders of the Iraqi military."

Congressman Hunter has been openly critical of the ongoing Senate hearings on the prison-abuse scandal, and the president's Iraqi policy. He has argued demands for testimony detract from the ability of commanders in the field to concentrate on military operations.