President George W. Bush is preparing for a new week of tough political battles with his Democratic opponents amid an atmosphere of mutual hostility and suspicion.

On Tuesday, Democrats will have a politically charged meeting with key Bush ally Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to hear his explanation about the firings of eight federal prosecutors, who they suspect fell victim to a White House-managed purge.

Bush will then receive members of Congress Wednesday to tell them he has no intention of negotiating any deadline for a troop pullout from Iraq as demanded by Democratic lawmakers.

With less than two years left in his term, the beleaguered president has had to contend with a steady stream of bad news and political scandals, particularly now that the Democrats control Congress and appear determined to have their say in domestic and foreign policy.

For the White House, this past week ended with another setback as World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Bush doctrine that paved the way to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, faced calls for his resignation over his handling of a pay raise for his girlfriend.

Another new scandal broke out after revelations that a considerable number of White House emails related to the sacking of the federal prosecutors had somehow disappeared. The emails under the law should have been archived, and officials said they were working to retrieve them.

And, as Bush pursued a war strategy aimed at restoring stability in violence-torn Iraq and security to the Iraqi capital, a bomb ripped through the parliament building located in the most protected sector of Baghdad.

While his Iraq policy has triggered an open conflict with the Democrats, Bush has found in the bombing more proof of extremism at work in Iraq and a new justification for his strategy.

The White House has warned that when the president receives members of Congress Wednesday, he will not bargain or try to forge a compromise on funding the war.

Both chambers of Congress have adopted measures funding the war, but imposed deadlines limiting the US combat mission in Iraq to 2008.

Bush has insisted that he will veto any bill with timetables.

But for the first time in weeks, Bush did not explicitly renew his veto threat in his Saturday radio address, though the overall tone was hardly conciliatory.

Meanwhile, Bush saw one of his major arguments used to bludgeon Democrats over war funding melt away.

He has repeatedly said that because of lack of funds, troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan risked being extended.

But last week, the Pentagon announced the deployments would be extended from 12 to 15 months, regardless of whether the war budget was adopted or not.

Democrats hesitated before accepting Bush’s invitation to the White House.

They said they will come to listen to his arguments and to insist that he heed the concerns of a majority of Americans who believe the current course in Iraq has failed and must be changed.

On Tuesday, a Senate committee will ask the attorney general tough questions about the role the White House may have played in the firings of eight US attorneys that critics say were driven by political considerations.

Senators were expected to concentrate on the possible role played in the firings by Karl Rove, Bush’s chief political adviser.

The controversy over the firing of prosecutors has indirectly led to the disclosure about the loss of White House e-mails.

Democrats are now asking if some White House officials, beginning with Rove, may have destroyed these documents in order to prevent them from falling in the hands of Congress.


Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse

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