Friday, January 19, 2007

Lawmakers seek to bar U.S. attack on Iran

Lawmakers seek to bar U.S. attack on Iran
By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives pushed legislation on Thursday to prohibit a U.S. attack on Iran without congressional permission.

The effort, led by Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican who in 2005 joined calls from many Democrats for a phased U.S. withdrawal from the Iraq war, came as lawmakers voiced concerns the Bush administration might provoke a confrontation with neighboring Iran.

"The resolution makes crystal clear that no previous resolution passed by Congress" authorizes a U.S. attack on Iran, Jones told reporters, referring to the 2002 vote by Congress authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The joint resolution would have to be passed by the House and Senate and signed by President George W. Bush to acquire the force of law. It would waive the congressional authorization only if Iran attacked the United States or its armed forces, or if such an attack was "demonstrably" imminent.

So far, Jones' resolution has 11 co-sponsors in the 435-member House.

At the White House, Bush, asked whether there were any U.S. plans to take action against Iran, told Sinclair Broadcasting: "I have made it clear that if they're moving weapons inside Iraq that will hurt the cause of democracy and more particularly hurt our soldiers, we'll take care of business there.

We're not going to let them," he said on Thursday. "I made that abundantly clear the other day in my speech."

Bush's comment echoed remarks last week when he accused Iran and Syria of allowing the use of their territory for launching attacks inside Iraq.

The White House has since made clear the plan was to disrupt weapons supply lines inside Iraq and that the United States was not preparing for military action against Iran or Syria.

Rep. Martin Meehan, a Massachusetts Democrat, said that while he did not trust Iran or its intentions in the Middle East, he also did not trust the White House.

Meehan said the resolution on Iran was needed because the Bush administration had "lied so many times" in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Concerns about a U.S. attack against Iran increased after the United States moved an additional aircraft carrier into the Gulf region and the Bush administration told Arab allies it would do more to contain Tehran.

The legislation's backers said they hoped Democratic leaders in the House would advance their resolution in coming months, possibly as part of Iraq war funding legislation or other Iraq-related measures.