Talks begin over vetoed bill


Summary

The talks are starting one day after Mr Bush vetoed a bill setting an Iraq withdrawal timeline.

While both sides pledged to work together on new legislation that would ensure US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan get needed funding, there was no evident compromise in the works between the White House and Congressional Democrats who have sought to tie funding to a pullout schedule.

"Members of the House and Senate passed a bill that substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders, so a few minutes ago, I vetoed the bill," Bush said.

"Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure, and that would be irresponsible," he said as protesters outside the White House chanted "Stop the war now!" and "How many more will die?"

Mr Bush had long pledged to defy the Democrat-controlled Congress with a veto of the bill, which was to allocate 124 billion dollars in emergency funding for US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

'No blank cheque'

The measure linked the funds to a call for US combat troops to start coming home by October 1, and for most of them to be withdrawn by March 2008.

"The president wants a blank cheque. The Congress is not going to give it to him," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned at a joint public appearance with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"If the president thinks that by vetoing this bill, he will stop us from working to change the direction of this war, he is mistaken," said Senator Reid. "Now he has an obligation to explain his plan to responsibly end this war."

The House and Senate had approved the legislation by mostly party-line votes, with Democrats urging Bush to "listen to the American people" as polls showed a majority want the war to end.

The veto came exactly four years after Bush, speaking aboard a US aircraft carrier under a giant "Mission Accomplished" banner, declared that "major combat" was over in Iraq following the US-led invasion launched in March 2003.

When he spoke, just 139 US soldiers had been killed in the war. Now more than 3,350 have died in Iraq, with April proving the bloodiest month of 2007 with a death toll of 104.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that setting less strict "benchmarks" could be a point of compromise.

For her part, Ms Pelosi warned that compromise would be difficult to reach.

"If the president thinks that what is happening on the ground in Iraq now is progress, as he said in his comments tonight, then it's clear to see why we have a disagreement on policy with him," she said after the veto.

"We look forward to working with the president, to find common ground, but there is great distance between us right now."

Support from Howard

In Sydney, Australian Prime Minister John Howard strongly defended Mr Bush's veto of a law setting out a timeline for withdrawing US troops from Iraq.

Mr Howard, an ardent supporter of George Bush and a key ally in the four-year-old US-led war in Iraq, said that pulling out troops too early would cause chaos in the already violence-ridden country.

"As part of the coalition of the willing, my attitude … is clearly the same attitude President Bush has taken," Mr Howard told Australia's Sky Television.

"If the coalition pulls out before the Iraqis are able to look after themselves then Iraq will be plunged into deeper chaos than they are experiencing at the present time," he said.


The talks are starting one day after Mr Bush vetoed a bill setting an Iraq withdrawal timeline.

While both sides pledged to work together on new legislation that would ensure US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan get needed funding, there was no evident compromise in the works between the White House and Congressional Democrats who have sought to tie funding to a pullout schedule.

"Members of the House and Senate passed a bill that substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders, so a few minutes ago, I vetoed the bill," Bush said.

"Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure, and that would be irresponsible," he said as protesters outside the White House chanted "Stop the war now!" and "How many more will die?"

Mr Bush had long pledged to defy the Democrat-controlled Congress with a veto of the bill, which was to allocate 124 billion dollars in emergency funding for US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

'No blank cheque'

The measure linked the funds to a call for US combat troops to start coming home by October 1, and for most of them to be withdrawn by March 2008.

"The president wants a blank cheque. The Congress is not going to give it to him," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned at a joint public appearance with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"If the president thinks that by vetoing this bill, he will stop us from working to change the direction of this war, he is mistaken," said Senator Reid. "Now he has an obligation to explain his plan to responsibly end this war."

The House and Senate had approved the legislation by mostly party-line votes, with Democrats urging Bush to "listen to the American people" as polls showed a majority want the war to end.

The veto came exactly four years after Bush, speaking aboard a US aircraft carrier under a giant "Mission Accomplished" banner, declared that "major combat" was over in Iraq following the US-led invasion launched in March 2003.

When he spoke, just 139 US soldiers had been killed in the war. Now more than 3,350 have died in Iraq, with April proving the bloodiest month of 2007 with a death toll of 104.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that setting less strict "benchmarks" could be a point of compromise.

For her part, Ms Pelosi warned that compromise would be difficult to reach.

"If the president thinks that what is happening on the ground in Iraq now is progress, as he said in his comments tonight, then it's clear to see why we have a disagreement on policy with him," she said after the veto.

"We look forward to working with the president, to find common ground, but there is great distance between us right now."

Support from Howard

In Sydney, Australian Prime Minister John Howard strongly defended Mr Bush's veto of a law setting out a timeline for withdrawing US troops from Iraq.

Mr Howard, an ardent supporter of George Bush and a key ally in the four-year-old US-led war in Iraq, said that pulling out troops too early would cause chaos in the already violence-ridden country.

"As part of the coalition of the willing, my attitude … is clearly the same attitude President Bush has taken," Mr Howard told Australia's Sky Television.

"If the coalition pulls out before the Iraqis are able to look after themselves then Iraq will be plunged into deeper chaos than they are experiencing at the present time," he said.