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President Bush, urging Congress to craft a war spending bill quickly, offered no clues Saturday about whether he’ll compromise over linking U.S. support to stability in Iraq.
Bush and Congress have been talking about how to agree on a bill to finance combat operations through September. The president demands the money without strings attached, but Democrats say Bush eventually must accept some conditions on the U.S. commitment to the unpopular war.
Earlier this week, Bush vetoed a $124 billion bill that would have provided money for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan while requiring troops to begin returning home by Oct. 1.
"I vetoed the bill Congress sent me because it set a fixed date to begin to pull out of Iraq, imposed unworkable conditions on our military commanders and included billions of dollars in spending unrelated to the war," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
After vetoing the bill, Bush dispatched three of his top aides to Capitol Hill to negotiate with Democrats. Those talks are to resume early next week.
Bush said that while Republicans and Democrats will not always agree on the war, the consequences of failure in Iraq are clear.
"If we were to leave Iraq before the government can defend itself, there would be a security vacuum in the country," Bush warned. "Extremists from all factions could compete to fill that vacuum, causing sectarian killing to multiply on a horrific scale."
The president also urged Congress to give the new war strategy he announced in January a chance to work.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is leading the military buildup of 21,500 more U.S. troops in Iraq. The administration hopes the extra security provided by the troops in Baghdad and Anbar Province will give the Iraqis time to mend sectarian fractures within the government and resolve other reconciliation issues.
"This strategy is still in its early stages, and Congress needs to give Gen. Petraeus’ plan a chance to work," Bush said.
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press