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UPDATED: 09:28, April 19, 2007
Bush, Democrats meet on Iraq bill
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U.S. President George W. Bush and Democratic leaders of Congress met at the White House on Wednesday on an emergency war funding bill, but the two sides failed to reach agreement to avoid an looming showdown over the legislation.

"It appears that they are determined to send a bill to the president that he won't accept," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, referring to legislation that would provide funding to this year's U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and would set a timetable for American pullout from Iraq.

"They fundamentally disagree," she said.

Both the Senate and the House passed bills last month that would provide money for this year's U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and set a timetable for the Bush administration to pull combat troops out of Iraq next year.

The bill approved by the Senate requires Bush to start withdrawal within 120 days after its becomes law, and aims to pull out all combat forces by March 31, 2008. The House measure asks the president to bring most combat troops home by Aug. 31 next year.

The House and the Senate need to work out the differences between their bills before a final version could be sent to the president.

Democrats said after meeting with Bush that they would send him the bill and hoped the president would sign it into law, despite the president's repeated threat to veto it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, said the bill would provide more money than Bush had requested.

"It gives the troops more than he's asked for and leaves the troops there for considerable periods of time with some goals and benchmarks that have been called for by the American people, the Iraq Study Group and many, many military," he said.

Reid said he believed that Bush "must search his soul, his conscience and find out what is the right thing for the American people," and that signing the bill "will do that."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while describing the meeting as productive, said lawmakers could not give the president "a blank check," but that Congress was willing to work with him to come to an agreement on the issue.

Congressional Republican leaders, who were also present at the meeting, said however that there were no hope the president would sign a bill that was similar to those passed by the Senate and the House.

Source: Xinhua

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