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No debate on setting withdrawal timetable for Iraq: White House
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08:49, July 10, 2007

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White House spokesman Tony Snow said Monday there was no debate within the administration about setting up a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

"Is there a debate about setting one? No," Snow said at a news briefing.

He said that the discussion in the White House right now was about carrying out "what Congress itself decided to do just two months ago" -- "to get a starting point glimpse" of the military buildup on July 15 and to get commendations from U.S. commanders in Iraq "how they want to proceed after that."

President George W. Bush has been under growing pressure to shift course over Iraq, with the war dragging on and casualties rising. In early May, he vetoed a bill that would have set up a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, and so far this, as many as six Republican senators have broken with Bush over Iraq, with four of them up for reelection next year.

A debate was intensifying over whether Bush should try to prevent more defections by announcing his intention to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from the high-casualty neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities, The New York Times reported on Monday.

Some aides were telling Bush that if he wanted to forestall more defections, it would be wiser to announce plans for a far more narrowly defined mission for American troops that would allow for a staged pullback, a strategy that he rejected in December as a prescription for defeat when it was proposed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

Bush and his aides once thought they could wait to begin those discussions until after Sept. 15, when the top field commander and the new American ambassador to Baghdad are scheduled to report on the effectiveness of the troop increase that the president announced in January, the Times reported.

In a sign of the concern, Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled plans for a four-nation tour of Latin America this week and would stay home to attend meetings on Iraq, the Pentagon announced Sunday.

Snow said Bush wanted to withdraw troops based on the facts on the ground, not on the matter of politics.

"But I'll tell you what we do hope, is that the surge in fact will achieve its results as quickly as possible so we can get to a point where we draw down American forces and we can get to a point where they recede into different kinds of roles than they've been fulfilling in recent months," he said.

But Democrats disagreed. "The war in Iraq is headed in a very dangerous direction. The last three months of President Bush's surge have been the deadliest of the war, the entire war," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a news conference.

He said Bush's military "surge" was supposed to provide Iraqi political leaders the space to make the compromises necessary to unite the nation, but "it hasn't happened, despite the bravery of our troops," he said.

Reid the president's strategy was not working and "we cannot wait until September to act."

"We have an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to truly change our Iraq strategy, to make America more secure, more safe," he said, urging Republicans to vote with Democrats to end the Iraq war.

Source: Xinhua

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