In Washington, a prominent Democratic lawmaker, the head of the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee, is renewing his party's push for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
Senator Carl Levin, a sponsor of a troop-withdrawal bill now awaiting a vote by the full Senate, says the United States will not be able to end violence in Iraq by military force alone. The senator from the midwestern state of Michigan contends that only a political settlement by Iraqi leaders can bring the continuing strife to an end.
The Democrats' current proposed bill calls for a troop withdrawal beginning in less than three months, but it has no binding effect on President Bush. An earlier version of the bill that would have mandated a military pullout was blocked last week by Republican Party senators.
The White House is urging Democratic lawmakers, who control Congress to defer legislative action until September, when a complete status report on current military operations in Iraq is due.
Levin, a co-author of the Reid-Levin amendment that is a key part of the bill, says the prospect of an American pullout beginning this year will push Iraq's leaders to move toward a political settlement acceptable to all factions.
Speaking Saturday during the Democrats' weekly radio message to the nation, Levin said that if Iraqi leaders continue to think their future is in U.S. hands, they will continue to dawdle.
Bush administration officials say that report will provide a clearer assessment of what has been achieved by the so-called U.S. troop surge in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq.