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U.S.: Bush Demands 'Clean' Bill To Fund Iraq, Afghan Wars

  • Andrew Tully --> George W. Bush (file photo) (epa) WASHINGTON, April 3, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush is fighting back against increased pressure from Congress about how he conducts the war in Iraq. Bush has all along insisted that he and he alone is empowered to conduct war, and that Congress has no business trying to limit his actions by controlling how military money is spent.

At a news conference at the White House today, Bush didn't limit his comments to how he views his own power as the exclusive commander in chief of the country's armed forces.

He also urged Congress to be mindful of the danger that U.S. troops could face from a lapse in funding, and the stress it would put on soldiers' families.

"Congress's failure to fund our troops on the front lines will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones return from the front lines, and others could see their loved ones headed back to the war sooner than they need to," he said. "That is unacceptable to me, and I believe it is unacceptable to the American people."

Rejecting A Deadline

On April 2, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada), said he would try to limit funding for the Iraq war if Bush refuses to accept a proposal by Congress to set a deadline for ending combat.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have passed separate bills providing about $96 billion to continue funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When the two bills are reconciled into one bill, the legislation is expected to include that deadline, in some form.

Bush has promised to veto any such measure, saying an end to U.S. involvement in the Iraq fighting is up to him, not Congress.

Vice President Cheney has been vocal in his support of the president as the sole commander of the U.S. military. In an April 2 speech in Birmingham, Alabama, he said no war can be successfully managed by a committee -- especially one made up of 100 senators and 435 members of the House of Representatives.

"We expect the House and the Senate to meet the needs of our military on time, in full, and with no strings attached," he added.

On April 2, the speaker of the House, Representative Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California), shrugged off White House contentions that Congress was causing a dangerous delay in approving the funding by including what it considers unacceptable additions to the bill. She said there's no chance that U.S. forces in Iraq will run out of money.

"We may have to make some changes in the allocations of the funding, but there is sufficient funding till the end of July," she noted.

Troubled Middle East

Today, Pelosi is in the Middle East on a fact-finding trip. She first had a meeting in Ramallah in the West Bank with Mahmud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. On April 4, she's scheduled a session with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Pelosi (center) with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora (left) in Beirut on April 2 (epa)

At his news conference, Bush criticized Pelosi's visit, saying it lends the Syrian government credibility it doesn't deserve.

"Photo opportunities and/or meetings with President Assad lead the Assad government to believe they are part of the mainstream of the international community when, in fact, they are a state sponsor of terror, when, in fact, they are helping expedite, or at least not stopping, the movement of foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq," he said.

Bush also discussed Iran's capture of 15 British naval personnel in the Persian Gulf near the Iraq-Iran border. Iran says the Britons strayed into its territorial waters. Britain says its sailors and marines were taken while in Iraqi waters.

A reporter asked the president if the United States was prepared to give up five Iranians being held in Iraq if it would help persuade Tehran to free the 15 Britons. Bush rejected the idea.

"The seizure of the [British] sailors is indefensible by the Iranians, and I support the [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair government's attempts to solve this issue peacefully," he said. "So we are in close consultation with the British government. I also strongly support the prime minister's declaration that their should be no quid pro quos when it comes to the hostages."

Bush also was asked about news reports that Iran is accelerating its efforts to process uranium in what many Western nations say is an effort to develop a nuclear weapon. He refused to discuss any specifics about the program, saying only that he continues to oppose allowing Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

Iran says it is merely trying to develop a nuclear energy program.

The Proliferation Threat

The Arak heavy-water plant in central Iran (Fars)

BENDING THE RULES. Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, told an RFE/RL-Radio Free Asia briefing on January 9 that the West is hamstrung in dealing with Iran and North Korea because of the way it has interpreted the international nonproliferation regime to benefit friendly countries like India and Japan.


Listen to the entire briefing (about 90 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media


Iran, North Korea Present Proliferation Challenges

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Rogue Nuclear Programs Threaten New Arms Race

Why Shouldn't Pyongyang Join Nuclear Club?