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Clinton, Obama back cutoff for Iraq funds

WASHINGTON -- Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton separately declared their support yesterday for a March 31, 2008, cutoff in funds for the Iraq war, the two Democratic presidential candidates abruptly shifting positions on the issue at the heart of the 2008 race.

The twin announcements came on the eve of a largely symbolic Senate vote.

In a written statement issued in the early afternoon, Obama said he would vote for a cutoff in war funding as well as a second bill setting standards for the Iraqi government "not because I believe either is the best answer, but because I want to send a strong statement to the Iraqi government, the president, and my Republican colleagues that it's long past time to change course."

A few hours later, a spokesman for Clinton said she, too, would support the measure. Clinton, of New York, will cast her vote "to send the president a clear message that it is time to change course, redeploy our troops out of Iraq, and end this war as soon as possible," said Philippe Reines, a spokesman in her Senate office.

The Senate is scheduled to vote today on a bill by Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, to require President Bush to begin the "safe, phased withdrawal of US forces" within 120 days.