Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 1 News List

US senators find common ground in opposing Bush

AFP AND AP , WASHINGTON AND BAGHDAD

Democratic and Republican senators agreed late on Wednesday on compromise wording to a resolution opposing US President George W. Bush's plan to increase US forces in Iraq.

The breakthrough measure, likely to gather wide legislative support, means that the White House could face an embarrassing -- but ultimately symbolic -- vote of no confidence in its latest military plan.

The agreement was announced just hours after Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, met Bush at the White House and found "areas of agreement" on Afghanistan and Iraq.

The unpopular war in Iraq "is perhaps the most vital issue facing our country," said Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, as she announced that a compromise resolution opposing the troop surge was reached.

"It is crucial that the Senate go on record expressing its opposition to the president's plan to send 21,500 troops to Iraq," she said.

The announcement was at odds with the warm feelings expressed after Pelosi met with Bush.

"It was a very constructive meeting," Pelosi said. "It was respectful and we found some areas of agreement in terms of our sizing up what the challenges are there."

Pelosi, who led a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers just back from Afghanistan and Iraq, said they had briefed the president on their findings.

Meanwhile, at least nine people were killed in Baghdad yesterday as security officials said Iraq's raging sectarian conflict claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 civilians across the country last month.

Six people were killed and 12 others wounded when a bomb tore through a bus in central Baghdad in the latest attack, a security official said. Three more people were killed in other attacks in Baghdad, he said.

A security source said nearly 2,000 civilians were killed last month, mostly in the sectarian conflict, adding that the number of those wounded was also significantly higher than the previous month.

He said that "1,992 civilians were killed by violence in Iraq during the month of January," speaking on condition of anonymity and citing figures provided by the health ministry.

They included dozens of unidentified bodies recovered each day in the country, he said.

Iraqi sources said 1,925 Iraqis were reported killed last December, much lower than the UN's figure of 2,914 civilian deaths.

The number of wounded civilians last month stood at 1,941, marking a sharp increase from the December figure of 1,511.

In other developments, Iraq has sent invitations to its neighbors, including Iran and Syria, to attend a meeting in Baghdad next month that will mainly discuss the security situation in the country, a Foreign Ministry official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information to the media, said the meeting will be the 10th held by Iraq's neighbors but the first to take place in Baghdad. The last meeting was held in July in Iran.

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