House fails to overturn Bush veto

US president confident of reaching a compromise over war funding bill.

    Congressional representatives met Bush at the
    White House after the veto override failed [AFP]

    'Common ground'


    Speaking about Tuesday's veto, Bush said "Yesterday was a day that highlighted differences.


    "Today is a day where we can work together to find common ground."


    Democrat leaders who emerged from the meeting called the session positive but said their main goal was to find a way to end the four-year-old Iraq war, in which 3,300 Americans and countless Iraqis have been killed.


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    Nancy Pelosi, the house speaker, said: "Whatever our differences, we owe it to the American people to find our common ground.


    "Of course, we must stand our ground if we can't find it. But we must strive to find that common ground."


    No easy compromise was within reach.


    Both parties agree the proposed spending bill should include benchmarks for progress in Iraq, but many Democrats insist they be tied to timelines for US troop withdrawals if they are unmet.


    Bush and his Republican congressional allies say such links are unacceptable.


    Robert Gates, the defence secretary, suggested the problem may not be the benchmarks themselves, but spelling out consequences - such as troop withdrawals - if the Iraqis fail to meet the targets.


    "I think one of the issues will be: To what degree are there consequences involved if one or another benchmark isn't met?" he said at the Pentagon.


    'Deadline for failure'

    Bush said on Tuesday that he recognised the Democrat-controlled congress's statement against the war made through the bill, but said US troops needed funding without further delay.

    Bush's veto came on the fourth anniversary
    of his "Mission Accomplished" speech [AP]

    "Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a deadline for failure, and that would be irresponsible," Bush said in a nationally televised speech on Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of his "Mission Accomplished" speech on an aircraft carrier declaring that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.
    Bush said the legislation that would have required the first US combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by October 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later, would have imposed impossible conditions on American generals in Iraq.
    The bill "substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders".

    The president said setting a date for withdrawal would give al-Qaeda a haven in Iraq much like it had in Afghanistan before the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US, adding that fighters in Iraq were part of the network that wanted to attack the US again.
    He vetoed the bill immediately on his return to the White House on Tuesday from a visit to MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, headquarters of the US Central Command, which oversees military operations in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.
    Harry Reid, the senate majority leader, said before Bush's veto that the president had "put our troops in the middle of a civil war".
    "Reality on the ground proves what we all know: a change of course is needed."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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