US Democratic leaders have dropped any timeline for withdrawing troops from Iraq in a new proposed bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Instead, the Democratic-run congress and the Republican White House have agreed for the first time to include 18 benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
The benchmarks are to push Baghdad to make better progress towards quelling violence or risk losing $1.3 bn in US reconstruction aid.
But George Bush, the US president, can waive the provision.
In exchange for passing the $124 bn spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan until September, Democrats want the Bush administration to agree to $20 bn in domestic initiatives, including the first minimum wage increase in a decade, better healthcare for war veterans and health insurance for poor children.
Negotiations between the White House and Congress are continuing on details.
House liberals were disappointed by the emerging deal, and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives who signed off on the plan, said she opposed the Iraq portion of it.
Pelosi said she was "not likely to vote for something that does not have a timetable" for withdrawing troops from the war that has killed at least 3,420 US soldiers and wounded more than 34,000.
But enough Republicans are expected to join some Democrats in backing the Iraq measure to ensure it passes if it is put to a vote this week, as planned by Pelosi.
Democrats pledged to try again in July to compel the president to withdraw troops from Iraq.
David Obey, the House Appropriations Committee chairman, said Democrats will move the troop withdrawal fight to another bill.
"The practical result of this would be we would transfer the debate on the Iraqi war" from the current emergency funding bill to fiscal 2008 war spending bills moving through congress starting in July, he said.
Bush and most Republicans have argued that setting dates for withdrawing US troops would rob military commanders of the flexibility they need to conduct the war.
Despite those charges, even some congressional Republicans have spoken of autumn as the timeframe for reassessing progress in Iraq and possibly producing "Plan B."
Last Mod: 23 Mayıs 2007, 09:58