Sunday, January 21, 2007

Democrats refuse to budge on Iraq plan opposition

Democrats refuse to budge on Iraq plan opposition
By Jeremy Pelofsky

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Democrats on Saturday refused to back down in their war of words with President George W. Bush over his plan for stemming violence in Iraq, saying 21,500 more troops being sent was no course change.

"I have serious concerns about the president's plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq," Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said in the Democratic weekly radio address. "His plan is just more of the same."

The White House on Friday denounced as "poisonous" comments by Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi who said the president was sending in more troops quickly because he knew that once they were in harm's way, Congress would not cut off resources for them.

Democrats, who won control of Congress in the 2006 elections, have pushed for a phased withdrawal of some 130,000 U.S. troops there now. Next week senators could vote on a bipartisan nonbinding resolution opposing the boost in forces.

The resolution also calls for additional diplomacy in the region and the transfer of military responsibilities to Iraqi forces as quickly as possible.

"The American people expect, and our troops and military families deserve, a real plan for success in Iraq that includes political solutions as well as military action," Schweitzer said.

The Republican president has said his plan has not been given a chance to work and urged those opposed to it to offer their own ideas. His aides have scrambled to try to limit the number of Republicans lawmakers supporting the resolution.

Bush on Saturday received a briefing from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Both have just returned from the Middle East where they met with allies and tried to sell the plan to halt the unrelenting violence in Iraq.

He then flew to the Camp David retreat in Maryland where he was expected to spend the rest of the weekend working on his annual State of the Union speech. He will deliver it to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.

Bush was accompanied on the trip by Rice, his national security adviser Stephen Hadley and his chief of staff Josh Bolten.

(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan)