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Democrats say they are war of Bush administration Iraq reconstruction plan

Democrats say they are war of Bush administration Iraq reconstruction plan

Emboldened by a successful first vote against President George W.Bush's Iraq war policy, Senate Democrats said Thursday they were wary of the administration's anticipated $1.2 billion (euro920 million) request for reconstruction there.
Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he wants assurances from the administration that the money would not fuel corruption or the insurgency in Iraq.
A key piece of Bush's new strategy is increasing reconstruction efforts, with the U.S. pledging another $1.2 billion (euro920 million) and the Iraqi government designating $10 billion (euro7.7 billion). As part of the plan, Bush is dispatching 21,500 additional troops to Iraq to bolster security so reconstruction efforts are not stalled.
"I hope we will hear today some concrete details on why these funds will achieve better results than we've been able to achieve before," Biden said.
The State Department has spent nearly $15 billion (euro11.5 billion) in reconstruction already and "as you know better than I do, the results aren't pretty," he added.
Testifying before the committee was David Satterfield, the State Department's senior adviser on Iraq, and Brig. Gen. Michael Jones, a Middle East adviser on political and military affairs to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Satterfield said the State Department is expanding the number of reconstruction teams sent to Baghdad and the western Anbar province and sending some 300 additional civilian personnel to Iraq. But, he added, much of the heavy lifting must be accomplished by the Iraqi government.
"It is not a question of putting them in the lead or encouraging them to take the lead. It's a recognition of reality," he told the panel.
Sen. Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the panel, said he wants regular progress reports that are much more detailed than previously provided to Congress. Lugar on Wednesday announced he had serious reservations that Bush's new Iraq plan would work.
"Overall, the results have been disappointing to the Iraqi people, to Congress, and to American taxpayers," said Lugar, referring to reconstruction efforts.
Biden's committee on Wednesday passed 12-9 a resolution that dismissed Bush's plans to increase troops in Iraq as "not in the national interest." The vote on the nonbinding measure was largely along party lines, with Sen. Chuck Hagel being the sole Republican on the committee offering his support.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure Feb. 5, Democratic leaders said Thursday.
Republicans have been meeting behind closed doors to shore up support for the Iraq war plan. The Senate is tied 49-49 between the two parties, with two independents voting with the Democrats. That means either party needs help from the other in order to achieve the 60 votes needed to overcome parliamentary delaying tactics and advance legislation.
"The goal is to try to salvage this situation and not send the additional troops with a message of disapproval," Sen. John McCain, said of the Republican meetings.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said that he does not want the issue rammed through.
"We're not going to try to stop the votes. What we want to do is make sure we have a number of different alternatives," he told MSNBC television. "Members of my party who differ with the president one way or another are all working on different alternatives. I think what we'll end up with ... is sort of a smorgasbord of options that will attract different members, all of which are likely, as virtually everything in the Senate is likely, to be subject to a 60-vote threshold."
Senate Democratic leaders say they are willing to negotiate the language to pull in more Republican support. Sen. John Warner, a senior Republican, who sponsored a rival proposal, has already met with Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat, and others to discuss his position.