Opposition
 
Ike Skelton, a Democrat and incoming chairman of the House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee, said on Monday: "I think there should be an overarching goal for our redeployment" from Iraq.
 

"When I asked commander of the force that arrested al-Zarqani about the reason behind the arrest, he did not comment and said that he would be released after two hours"

Miqdad al-Saad,
spokesman for Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr

Seeking to salvage the US mission in an unpopular war that has lasted nearly four years, Bush's new plan is expected to include despatching up to 20,000 more troops and setting "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government to meet aimed at easing sectarian violence and stabilising the country.
 
It is also expected to contain a jobs programme with the goal of putting Iraqis back to work. Its cost was unclear but will likely be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
 
Edward Kennedy, the veteran Democratic senator, questioned whether congress would support funding for a troop increase.
 
"Any request for additional troops is going to have to be accompanied by a very, very strong justification and in fact a detailed plan," on the purpose of the troop increase, he said.
 
In the latest move in a shake-up of his Iraq team, the White House said Bush would nominate the US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, to represent Washington at the UN and replace him with Ryan Crocker, currently US ambassador to Pakistan.
 
Bus ambush
 
Underlining the challenge facing Bush and Iraq's US-backed government, fighters on Monday ambushed a bus carrying workers to Baghdad airport in the latest occurrence of sectarian violence that is killing hundreds of Iraqis a week.
 
A hospital source said 15 bodies and 15 wounded people had been brought to the hospital after the attack in the neighbourhood of Amriya in western Baghdad.

Al-Maliki has vowed to crush illegal armed
groups regardless of sect or politics [AFP]
Police and an interior ministry source said four were killed and nine wounded.
 
The attack came two days after Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, announced a major security plan for Baghdad, vowing to crush illegal armed groups "regardless of sect or politics" - suggesting he may be ready to tackle militias loyal to his fellow Shias.
 
Police recovered 25 bodies, mostly of tortured death squad victims, around Baghdad in the 24 hours before Monday evening, an interior ministry source said. In Baghdad 13 people were killed and 18 were injured caught in gun battles and roadside bombs.
 
Al-Sadr aide held
 
In another development, Saudi authorities arrested Hasan al-Zarqani, head of Moqtada al-Sadr's Damascus office, in the Saudi holy city of Medina, a spokesman for the Iraqi Shia leader said on Monday.
 
"Any request for additional troops is going to have to be accompanied by a very, very strong justification and in fact a detailed plan," on the purpose of the troop increase"

Edward Kennedy,
Democratic Senator
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Miqdad al-Saad said that Sheikh Hasan al-Zarqani, head of external affairs of al-Sadr's Syria office, was arrested in the afternoon on Monday while he was performing relgious rituals at the Jannat al-Baqai cemetery.
 
"Sheikh Hasan al-Zarqani was among hundreds of pilgrims but his arrest was intentional," al-Saad said.
 
Al-Zarqani was visiting a holy site where the Prophet Muhammad's relatives and companions are believed to be buried.
 
The Saudi authorities alleged that al-Zarqani uttered the phrase "peace be on Muhammad and his family" - a phrase which the arresting authorities said is forbidden, al-Saad said.
 
"When I asked the commander of the force that arrested al-Zarqani about the reason behind the arrest, he did not comment and said that al-Zarqani would be released after two hours," he said.
 
But al-Zarqani was transferred to another security department in the city, according to al-Saad.
 
No further details were reported about the reason behind the arrest.