A group of Democratic and Republican senators have begun drafting legislation that would require Iraq to fund more of the war costs that Americans are now paying. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee told a news conference Thursday that Iraq should begin paying some of the costs of the war and reconstruction of the country.

They note that Iraq has a budget surplus as a result of the rising price of its oil exports, while the United States is grappling with budget deficits and other economic problems.

"It is time now for Iraq to assume responsibility for its future with its own investments. Real investment in its own infrastructure and national security. The American public is growing weary of financing every aspect of Iraq's future, from combat operations to electricity grids and highways," said Senator Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat.

"The blank check written by the American taxpayers to the government of Iraq must stop," said Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat.

The senators are considering attaching the legislation to a war-funding bill expected to be debated by Congress in the coming weeks. The bill calls for more than $100 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, says she and the other senators are working with the Defense and State Departments to identify costs that could be paid by the Iraqis. "I do not believe that it is unfair in any way to ask the Iraqi people to begin shouldering more of the costs of rebuilding their own country."

The lawmakers suggested the cost of some of the weapons, the training of Iraqi troops, and the salaries of security forces known as Sons of Iraq, could be among those paid by Iraqis, either directly or through loans.

At a Senate hearing Wednesday, White House Budget Director Jim Nussle said the Bush administration would be open to considering having Iraqis pay more of the war costs.