Fri, Jul 13, 2007 - Page 1 News List

White House to report mixed progress in Iraq

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US Congress was to launch a fresh attempt to wrest control of Iraq war policy from President George W. Bush yesterday, while the White House was to report mixed progress in its strategy.

The House of Representatives was to debate and likely vote on a bill demanding the withdrawal of most combat troops from Iraq by April 1 next year, while the Senate plowed through its own emotional debate over the war.

As it struggled to contain a Republican rebellion over Iraq, the Bush administration prepared to deliver a key interim report on its war strategy to Congress.

The report, scheduled for release yesterday, would declare "satisfactory" progress on only about half the goals set out by lawmakers and acknowledge political reconciliation has not been achieved, newspapers reported.

The report says most progress has been made on the security front, including a decline in civilian casualties from sectarian violence, the New York Times said, citing unnamed administration officials.

The White House report describes positive movement on eight of the 18 goals, a lack of progress on eight others and mixed results for two benchmarks, the Washington Post said.

The report says the Iraqi parliament has so far failed to adopt or even begin debate on crucial legislation for the nation's oil industry and criticizes the Baghdad government for failing to secure a law that would make it easier for former members of the Baath party to get government jobs.

But the report will "not conclude, as it has been characterized, that this is a colossal failure," an administration official told the Times.

The progress report has taken on added political weight as some members of Bush's Republican party have broken with him over the war.

While Bush was expected to cite the report as evidence his troop "surge" strategy needed to be given more time, US intelligence officials gave a much more bleak assessment of Iraq in testimony before Congress.

Thomas Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence, told a congressional committee on Wednesday that "even if violence is diminished, given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene, Iraqi leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation."

Meanwhile, National Security adviser Stephen Hadley held meetings with worried Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The House was expected to debate all day yesterday, before voting on a measure which would require most combat troops to be out of Iraq by April 1, 2008.

The redeployment would begin within 120 days and the president would be forced to report to Congress on why soldiers should stay in Iraq for limited purposes such as fighting terrorism or training Iraqi forces.

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