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Senate Republicans Pushing For Plan to End War in Iraq

By Carl Hulse
THE NEW YORK TIMES


WASHINGTON

In a sign of increasing unease among congressional Republicans over the war in Iraq, the Senate is to consider on Tuesday a Republican proposal that calls for Iraqi forces to take the lead next year in securing the nation and for the Bush administration to lay out its strategy for ending the war.

The proposal from Sen. Bill Frist, the majority leader, and Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also requires the Bush administration to provide extensive new quarterly reports to Congress on subjects like progress in bringing in other countries to help stabilize Iraq.

The plan, which will be debated as part of a Pentagon policy measure that also contains new limits on the legal rights of terror detainees, stops short of a competing Democratic proposal that moves toward establishing dates for a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq. But it is built upon the Democratic approach and makes it clear that senators of both parties are increasingly eager for Iraqis to take control of their own country in coming months and open the door to removing American troops.

Warner said the underlying message was, “we really mean business, Iraqis, get on with it.” The senator, an influential party voice on military issues, said he did not interpret the wording of his plan as critical of the administration, describing it as a “forward-looking” proposal.

“It is not a question of satisfaction or dissatisfaction,” he said. “This reflects what has to be done.”

Democrats said the proposal represented a shift in Republican sentiment on Iraq and was an acknowledgment of growing public unrest with the course of the war and the administration’s frequent call for patience.

“I think it signals the fact that the American people are demanding change, and the Republicans see that that’s something that they have to follow,” said Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader.

Frist said an important reason for the Republican proposal was to offer an alternative to the Democratic call for a withdrawal timetable. “The real objective was to get out of this timeline of cutting and running that the Democrats have in their amendment,” he said.

Warner said he decided to take the Democratic proposal and edit it to his satisfaction in an effort to find common ground between the parties on the issue.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., said he saw the proposal as a potential “turning point” in congressional deliberation over Iraq and related issues.

The competing amendments include some of the most specific and expansive congressional statements on the war in months and are being proposed for inclusion in a measure that also wrestles with the issues of treatment of terror detainees and their rights in American courts.

On that issue, a group of senators said Monday night that they had reached a compromise on the contentious issue of allowing detainees access to federal courts. The Senate voted last week to prohibit those being held to challenge conditions surrounding their detention in federal court despite a Supreme Court ruling to the contrary. The Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on an effort to reverse that decision.