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DateLine Thursday, 12 July 2007

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Bush: No withdrawal, but Iraqis must do more

UNITED STATES: President George W. Bush, rejecting talk of withdrawal timetables, pleaded Tuesday with lawmakers rebelling against his Iraq strategy to hold their fire until a September progress report.

“We’ve got a plan to lead to victory,” he told a friendly audience of business leaders here as the US Congress geared up for perhaps its sharpestattack on his unpopular war strategy.

“In the meantime, the Iraqis have got to do more work,” the embattled president stressed.

Top US officials have increasingly expressed unhappiness with the Baghdad government’s failure to enact legislation governing oil revenue sharing and setting up provincial elections, steps seen in Washington as key to quelling sectarian violence.

Bush’s comments came as the White House braced for an interim progress report, due in Congress by July 15, that was expected to paint a dark picture of trends in Iraq even as Democrats seek to force a US troop withdrawal.

Bush urged lawmakers to wait for the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, to give his September assessment of the situation, calling that “a final report on the benchmarks” that lawmakers tied to defense spending.

“And now, I call upon the United States Congress to give General David Petraeus a chance to come back and tell us whether his strategy is working, and then we can work together on a way forward,” said Bush.

But “troop levels will be decided by our commanders on the ground, not by political figures in Washington,” said the US president, who acknowledged the American public’s deep unhappiness with sustained deadly violence in Iraq.

Washington, Wednesday, AFP

 

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