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Democrats pledge push on war plan

Senator outlines plan to redeploy within 4 months

WASHINGTON -- Democrats pledged yesterday to keep pushing until there is a change of course in Iraq.

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, in her party's weekly radio address, outlined the party's plan to narrow the mission of US forces in Iraq and begin redeployment of US troops within four months.

"Regrettably, our effort was blocked by Senate Republicans and a president who stubbornly refused to listen," Murray said.

Democrats will get another chance this week when the full House begins work on the war - spending request, which covers costs for this year.

A House committee on Thursday approved the spending bill. It includes a troop withdrawal deadline of Sept. 1, 2008.

It also requires that troops receive proper training, equipment, and rest, although President Bush is permitted to waive those provisions.

In his weekly radio address yesterday, Bush said all of those "arbitrary and restrictive conditions" are unacceptable.

"These restrictions would handcuff our generals in the field by denying them the flexibility they need to adjust their operations to the changing situation on the ground," he said, and "would substitute the mandates of Congress for the considered judgment of our military commanders."

Bush accused the Democrats of using troops as leverage to win domestic political battles.

He repeated his promise that his spending request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan must be approved "without strings and without delay" or he will veto it.

The spending bill totals $124 billion, $95.5 billion of which is targeted for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The rest of the funds in the House bill would go to domestic programs.

Republicans said that was a thinly disguised attempt to win support from reluctant Democrats with pork-barrel spending. Democrats said the extra money was for legitimate needs.

"Congress must not allow debate on domestic spending to delay funds for our troops on the front lines," the president said.

Murray, the Senate's fourth-ranking Democrat, also criticized the Bush administration over its treatment of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.