Thursday, April 19, 2007

Democrats soften stance on Iraq

18/04/2007 19:30 - (SA)

Washington - Democrats softened their demands on Wednesday on the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq ahead of talks with US President George W Bush on funding for the four-year-old war.

Leaders of the new Democratic majority said before a scheduled meeting with Bush they preferred to negotiate an exit strategy rather than try to impose a withdrawal timetable fiercely opposed by the White House.

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the house of representatives, said Democrats were determined to reach out and say: "Mr. President, we must work together. We must negotiate an approach that will wind down this war."

Pelosi and senate majority leader Harry Reid conspicuously avoided a demand for the pullout of US troops starting next year that was contained in a funding bill Bush has sworn to veto.

Pelosi said: "It's not a question of 'back down'. It's a question of negotiate a winding down of this war.

"It's necessary that we do that because the course of action we are in is a war without end."

There are 145 000 US troops in Iraq, and the number should rise to 160 000 by June under a "surge" ordered by Bush to try to restore order in Baghdad.

Locked in a weeks-long standoff over a $120bn emergency funding package for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush and the Democratic leaders were to meet behind closed doors at the White House.

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