Iraqi lawmakers support date for U.S. withdrawal

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A majority of Iraq’s parliament has signed a proposed bill that would require a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Iraq and freeze current troop levels, a sign of a growing division between Iraqi legislators and the prime minister that mirrors the widening gulf between the Bush administration and its critics in Congress.

The draft bill would create a timeline for a gradual departure, much like what some Democrats in the U.S. have demanded, and require the Iraqi government to secure parliament’s approval before any further extensions of the United Nations mandate for foreign troops in Iraq, which expires at the end of 2007.

“We haven’t asked for the immediate withdrawal of multi-national forces, we asked that we should build our security forces and make them qualified and at that point there would be a withdrawal,” said Baha al-Araji, a parliamentarian allied with the anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose supporters drafted the bill. “But no one can accept the occupation of his country.”

In both Iraq and the United States, there is deepening frustration among lawmakers and the public over Bush’s troop build-up, a policy that has yet to prevent widespread killing in Iraq . At the same time, Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are dispatching their emissaries in an urgent trans-Atlantic gambit to shore up support.

Iraq’s national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, was in Washington this week to ask Democratic congressmen to have patience with the “surge,” and to not abandon Iraq at such a precarious time. On Wednesday, Vice President Dick Cheney landed in Baghdad to press the government to act quickly on a host of divisive political issues the Bush administration deems necessary for long-term stability.

On his second day in Iraq, Cheney spoke to U.S. soldiers at a base near Tikrit about the difficulties they face each day.

“We are here, above all, because the terrorists who have declared war on America and other free nations have made Iraq the central front in that war,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

He added, “The United States, also, has made a decision: As the prime target of a global war against terror, we will stay on the offensive. We will not sit back and wait to be hit again.”

U.S. military deaths

Latest identifications reported by the military of U.S. personnel killed in Iraq:

Six soldiers from Fort Lewis died Sunday in Baqubah when an explosive detonated near their vehicle. Killed were: Army Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Romeo, 23, Lodi, N.J.; Army Sgt. Jason Harkins, 25, Clarkesville, Ga.; Army Sgt. Joel Lewis, 28, Sandia Park, N.M.; Army Cpl. Matthew Alexander, 21, Gretna, Neb.; Army Cpl. Anthony Bradshaw, 21, San Antonio, Texas; Army Cpl. Michael Pursel, 19, Clinton, Utah. They were assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Marine Lance Cpl. Walter O’Haire, 20, Lynn, Mass., died Wednesday in Anbar province; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Army Spc. Dan Nguyen, 24, Sugar Land, Texas, died Tuesday in Tahrir from small arms fire; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Kiernan, 37, Virginia Beach, Va., died Sunday from small-arms fire in Baghdad; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

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