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Democrat Levin says Senate will not stop funding war in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate will not stop paying for the Iraq war or relent from insisting that President Bush keep pressing the Baghdad government for a negotiated end to the violence, a top Democrat said Sunday.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the Senate Armed Service Committee chairman, took issue with an effort by Majority Leader Harry Reid to limit war spending after March 2008 as a way to end U.S. involvement.

“We’re not going to vote to cut funding, period,” Levin said. “But what we should do, and we’re going to do, is continue to press this president to put some pressure on the Iraqi leaders to reach a political settlement.”

Bush has asked Congress for more than $100 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year. The House and Senate have approved the money, but their bills seek to wind down the war by including timelines for troops to come home — something Bush will not accept. The Senate bill would require a U.S. troop exit to begin within 120 days, with a completion goal of March 31, 2008. The House bill would order all combat troops out by Sept. 1, 2008.

Democratic leaders have not negotiated a final version to send the president. Bush has made clear he will veto it, which will start the process all over.

“We’re going to fund the troops. We always have,” Levin said. He added, “We’re very strong in supporting the troops, but we’re also strong on putting pressure on the Iraqi leaders to live up to their own commitments without that political settlement on their part, there is no military solution.”

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said “there have not been sufficient efforts at discussions” between lawmakers and White House. “We cannot leave the troops unfunded in the field. That just can’t be done. And Congress is not in a position to micromanage the war. But we do not have any good alternative. Right now, you can’t see the end of the tunnel, let alone a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Specter said he was not prepared “to withdraw funding at this time. But my patience, like many others, is growing very thin.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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