Republicans Stop Bill To Ban Waterboarding

(CBS/AP) Senate Republicans blocked a bill Friday that would restrict the interrogation methods the CIA can use against terrorism suspects.

The bill would require the CIA to adhere to the Army's field manual on interrogation, which bans waterboarding, mock executions and other harsh interrogation methods.

The interrogation procedure, which is recognized as a form of torture by making the subject think he's drowning, is banned by international law. It has been used by CIA interrogators on terrorism suspects, or by those to whom U.S. prisoners have been sent via rendition flights.

It was recently learned that the CIA ordered the destruction of videotapes of interrogations in which detainees were reportedly subjected to waterboarding and other harsh measures.

The legislation, part of a measure authorizing the government's intelligence activities for 2008, had been approved a day earlier by the House by a vote of 222-199, and sent to the Senate for what was supposed to be final action.

Senate opponents of that provision, however, discovered a potentially fatal parliamentary flaw: The ban on torture had not been in the original versions of the intelligence bill passed by the House and Senate. Instead, it was a last-minute addition during negotiations between the two sides to write a compromise bill, a move that could violate Senate rules. The rule is intended to protect legislation from last-minute amendments that neither house of Congress has had time to fully consider.

Although it's not unheard of for new language to be added in House-Senate negotiations and accepted anyway, the rules allow such a move to be challenged and the language stripped from the bill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., placed a hold on the intelligence bill, preventing the Senate from voting on it while the challenge goes forward.

"I think quite frankly applying the Army field manual to the CIA would be ill-advised and would destroy a program that I think is lawful and helps the country," Graham said in an interview.

If the Senate were to approve a stripped-down authorization bill next week, it would then have to go back to the House for another vote.

The field manual amendment was pushed by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and backed by two Senate Republicans, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
Feinstein defended the provision and said the Senate should debate it. "The Army Field Manual has been an effective guide for the military," she said. "It was very carefully written and reviewed. It has not come under criticism, unlike the constant criticism in the CIA arena .... It is my belief that America is not well-served by torture."

The White House threatened to veto the bill this week over the interrogation restrictions and a list of other issues. The CIA denies that it tortures detainees.

The Army field manual, adopted in 2006, prohibits forcing detainees to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; placing hoods or sacks over detainees' heads or duct tape over their eyes; beating, shocking, or burning detainees; threatening them with military dogs; exposing them to extreme heat or cold; conducting mock executions; depriving them of food, water, or medical care; and waterboarding.

The CIA is known to have waterboarded three prisoners but has not used the technique since 2003, according to a government official familiar with the program who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified. CIA Director Michael Hayden prohibited waterboarding in 2006.

The White House gave the CIA special latitude to conduct harsh or "enhanced" interrogations in 2002.

Bush 'cannot recall' CIA videos

President George W Bush

US President George W Bush has said he has "no recollection" of the existence of video tapes of CIA interrogations and the plan to destroy them.

The CIA says it wiped two tapes of interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects to protect the identities of its agents.

But human rights groups accuse it of destroying evidence of practices that may be tantamount to torture.

A US Senate committee has promised a thorough investigation into the history of the making and wiping of the tapes.

Mr Bush continued to have confidence in CIA Director Michael Hayden, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

The president "did not remember" being told of the tapes prior to Thursday, she said.

The CIA confirmed on Thursday allegations in the New York Times that two tapes were destroyed in 2005.

Officials feared the tapes could have raised doubts about the legality of the CIA's techniques, the newspaper says.

The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, John Rockefeller, a Democrat, called for a thorough investigation into the tapes and their destruction.

Gen Hayden said House and Senate intelligence committee members had been informed of the tapes and the decision to wipe them.

Jane Harman, a senior Democrat who was on the House Intelligence Committee at the time, said she had been informed of the decision, but was opposed to it.

"I told the CIA that destroying videotapes of interrogations was a bad idea and urged them in writing not to do it," she told the Associated Press.

Pete Hoekstra, a Republican who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time, told the news agency he did not recall being briefed on the matter at all.

Separately, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dick Durbin asked the Attorney General to request an investigation into whether the CIA broke obstruction-of-justice laws by destroying the footage.


The CIA revelation has drawn criticism from civil liberties and human rights groups.

Jennifer Daskal, senior counsel with Human Rights Watch, said the wiping of the tapes was "destruction of evidence", and described the reasons given by the CIA as "disingenuous".

The American Civil Liberties Union accused the agency of showing an utter disregard for the law.

"The destruction of these tapes appears to be a part of an extensive, long-term pattern of misusing executive authority to insulate individuals from criminal prosecution for torture and abuse," an ACLU statement said.

Gen Hayden explained why the footage was destroyed in an internal memo sent to CIA employees and obtained by the Associated Press.

He said the CIA had begun taping interrogations as an internal check in 2002 and decided to delete the videos because they no longer had "intelligence value" and posed a security risk.

"Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the programme, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al-Qaeda and its sympathisers," he said.

Harsh techniques

The BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington says the news is likely to trigger more questions about the interrogation techniques used by the CIA and whether they amounted to torture.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, President Bush authorised the use of "harsh techniques" in the interrogation of suspected terrorists.

According to our correspondent, those techniques are alleged to have included water-boarding, a method in which a suspect is made to feel he is drowning.

Human rights groups say that water-boarding - and other techniques allegedly used by the CIA - can be defined as torture under various international treaties to which the US is a signatory.

Gen Hayden says that the CIA's internal watchdogs saw the tapes in 2003 and verified that the techniques used were legal.

The Bush administration has always maintained that it does not allow the use of torture.

The tapes are thought to have shown the interrogation in 2002 of a number of terror suspects, including Abu Zubaydah, who had been a chief recruiter for the al-Qaeda network.

Guantanamo legal showdown begins

US flag flying at Guantanamo Bay

The US Supreme Court has begun considering whether Guantanamo Bay inmates should be able to contest their detention in US civilian courts.

Two cases challenge the removal by Congress of the "habeas corpus" right of detainees under the US constitution to be heard by an independent judge.

If the court rules in their favour, indefinite detention under military control could be declared unlawful.

The court's judges have ruled against the US government in two earlier cases.

The first concerned the status of Guantanamo Bay in relation to US territory.

In 2004, the judges found that existing law gave federal courts the right to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay - the right of "habeas corpus" - because of the unique control the US government had over the land leased from Cuba.

Two years later, it ruled that the president did not have the authority to order the "enemy combatants" there to face military commissions.

The government responded both times by obtaining congressional legislation restricting judicial review of the detentions.

The Military Commissions Act (MCA) passed in 2006 removed the right of habeas corpus and set up commissions to try detainees who were not US citizens.

'Law-free zone'

Now the two test cases challenging the MCA brought by Lakhdar Boumediene, an Algerian arrested in Bosnia in 2001, and Fawzi al-Odah, a Kuwaiti seized in Pakistan in 2002, have been consolidated into one and brought on behalf of 37 foreign nationals who remain among the 305 detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Their lawyers argue that habeas corpus should extend to the facility even though it is technically not US sovereign territory.

On Wednesday, court justices questioned lawyers from both sides.

Seth Waxman, lawyer for one of the inmates, said many prisoners had been held for six years with "no prospect" of challenging their detention in any meaningful way.

"The US government has complete jurisdiction and control over this place. No other law applies," Mr Waxman said.

"If the US law doesn't apply, it is a law-free zone."

But Solicitor General Paul Clement said the prisoners at Guantanamo have more rights to contest their detention than foreigners held by the US outside its territory have had in the past.

"This is a remarkable liberalisation," he said.

The US constitution states that habeas corpus "shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it".

Mr Clement said in his brief to the court that the US does not own Guantanamo Bay and therefore the writ of habeas corpus does not run there.

"As aliens held outside the sovereign territory of the United States, petitioners do not enjoy any rights," he said.

Outside Wednesday's hearing two dozen protesters, some in orange jump suits, shouted "restore habeas corpus", the Associated Press news agency reported.

The court is expected to decide the case by mid-2008.

Kidnapped Britons tape condemned

Hostage video

The UK government has condemned a videotape issued by the kidnappers of five British men held captive in Iraq.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the tape would "add to the distress of the men's families and friends".

In the film, dated 18 November, the kidnappers say they will kill one of the men as a "first warning" unless UK forces leave Iraq within 10 days.

The five men were seized on 29 May from Baghdad's finance ministry building by gunmen disguised as police officers.

They are being held by a militia group calling itself the Islamic Shia Resistance in Iraq.

The tape, which the Foreign Office is studying, is in Arabic and was broadcast on Al-Arabiya television on Tuesday.

The Britons - four guards and a computer expert - were initially taken to a Shia suburb after being seized.

Consular officials had remained in regular contact with the families of the men, the spokesman added.

The case has not featured in the media as much as other kidnappings in Iraq - including those of Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan - because of a Foreign Office request for minimal coverage.

That request was made in keeping with the wishes of the men's families.

The Foreign Office says it does not want anything to get in the way of its negotiations, through third parties, to get the men released.

'Withdraw thieves'

In the tape, filmed in front of an "Islamic Shia Resistance in Iraq" flag, one of the men gives his name, says he has been held for 173 days and adds: "I feel we have been forgotten."

In written text shown on the video, the kidnappers say the UK should "withdraw all the thieves and the gangs that they have brought with them to plunder and squander our wealth and resources, and to return what they have stolen".

They warn that, if the UK does not meet its demands, "this hostage will be executed on day number 10 as a first warning, then other details that you will not like will be made public".

It is unclear whether the 10-day deadline begins now, or when the recording was made.

The Foreign Office spokesman said: "No matter what the cause, hostage-taking can never be justified.

"We again call on those holding the men to release them unconditionally."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman also condemned the release of the videotape.

"It's our long-established policy not to comment on such footage and we encourage others not to speculate," he added.

"That would be unhelpful and distressing to the families concerned."

'Ordinary men'

BBC special correspondent Gavin Hewitt said a crucial difference between this kidnapping and previous cases had been that intelligence agencies believed the Britons were being held by a splinter group of the Mahdi army - a Shia militia - rather than Sunnis linked to al-Qaeda.

But the "secretive cell" did not appear to be part of a big organisation, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said, which made it more difficult for British authorities to understand its motives.

However, our correspondent said going public with the tape signalled a change of behaviour in the kidnappers as, up until now, nothing had been heard from the five men being held.

It was putting "immense pressure" on the British government to resolve the issue, but little was yet known about the hostages' whereabouts and how serious the group's threats were, he added.

In September, the families of the five men urged their captors to end their "torment" of being separated from "ordinary family men".

The statement continued: "They are sons, fathers and brothers who were working to support us - their families.

"We miss them so much and want them to come home to us so that our families can be complete again and our children no longer have to endure the pain of missing their fathers."

Bill Clinton's Iraq War Claim Disputed

A former senior aide to then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice disputed Bill Clinton's statement this week that he "opposed Iraq from the beginning," saying that the former president was privately briefed by top White House officials about war planning in 2003 and that he told them he supported the invasion.

Clinton's comments in Iowa on Tuesday went far beyond more nuanced remarks he made about the conflict in 2003. But the disclosure of his presence in briefings by Rice -- and his private expressions of support -- may add to the headaches that the former president has given his wife's campaign in recent weeks.

Hillary Mann Leverett, at the time the White House director of Persian Gulf affairs, said that Rice and Elliott Abrams, then National Security Council senior director for Near East and North African affairs, met with Clinton several times in the months before the March 2003 invasion to answer any questions he might have. She said she was "shocked" and "astonished" by Clinton's remarks this week, made to voters in Iowa, because she has distinct memories of Abrams "coming back from those meetings literally glowing and boasting that 'we have Clinton's support.'"

Leverett, a former career foreign service officer who said she is not involved in any presidential campaign, said the incident affected her because of her own doubts about the wisdom of an attack. "To hear President Clinton was supportive really silenced whatever questions I had," she recalled. Leverett, who worked in the same office as Abrams at the time, said Rice and Abrams "made it a high priority" to get Clinton's support, meeting with him at least twice. Abrams was tasked to answer Clinton's questions and "took the responsibility very seriously," Leverett said. "Elliott was then very focused on making sure that we followed up on Clinton's questions to keep Clinton happy and on board."

One of the specific questions Clinton asked, Leverett recalled hearing, is what the United States would do if Iraq's "military used chemical weapons against our Gulf allies."

She recalled being told that Clinton made it clear to Rice and Abrams that they could count on his public support for the war if it was necessary.

Rice's spokesman, Sean McCormack, said that "she is not going to comment on past conversations with former presidents in either capacity as [national security adviser] or secretary of state." White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe declined to comment on behalf of Abrams.

Leverett added that the White House at the time had little concern about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's support for the war and "they discussed inviting her to various White House events as a sort of reward for her support."

Leverett and her husband, Flynt Leverett, also a former top Rice aide, have become critics of the Bush administration since they left the White House, accusing the administration of trying to censor their writing because of their criticism of Iran policy.

In an interview last night, Sen. Clinton said of her husband's comments, "There was nothing new in what he said."

An adviser to the former president said that, while Clinton recalled meeting with Rice before the war, it was strictly an informational session about technical war planning, not the merits of an invasion. Clinton did not, the adviser said, believe he was being solicited for an opinion about whether to invade.

Although Bill Clinton is still viewed as a political asset, particularly in the hotly contested Democratic primaries, he has also repeatedly made remarks that have put him out of step with his wife's message and irritated Clinton campaign aides who have been forced to address them.

After the Democratic debate in Philadelphia last month, the former president insinuated that his wife's Democratic rivals were mounting attacks on her akin to the "Swift boat" campaign Republicans launched against Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) during the 2004 race -- an explosive charge that prompted some of Hillary Clinton's rivals to lash out more aggressively than ever.

The following week, Clinton strayed off-message again, continuing to reinforce the theme that other candidates were piling on his wife after her strategists had decided to drop the issue. In a speech on Nov. 12, Clinton complained about the "boys" in the campaign "getting tough" on his wife. It was then that Clinton campaign aides began quietly distancing themselves from the former president, saying his comments were not part of their coordinated effort.

Jay Carson, a longtime Clinton spokesman who recently moved to Sen. Clinton's campaign, quickly sought to put the former president's comments on Iraq into context -- arguing that Clinton had always had concerns about attacking Baghdad.

"This administration assured us that Saddam Hussein had [weapons of mass destruction], that the war was over 2,500 casualties ago and that the insurgency was in its last throes," he said. "Their claim that President Clinton privately offered his support for the war should be viewed with the same level of credibility."

And the campaign made clear that Clinton would remain his wife's chief, and best, surrogate.

"President Clinton is a huge asset to the campaign. Everywhere he goes, he draws large, supportive crowds," said Howard Wolfson, a senior Clinton adviser.

Edwards Releases Plan To Combat Hunger

(AP) Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Wednesday released his plan to fight domestic hunger and called on Congress to immediately take action to fund programs that provide food services for millions of Americans.

"This is an issue that we can actually do something about," Edwards said, also asking Americans to do their part at an individual level. "I think we have a moral responsibility as a country to stand up and take action to where no man, woman or child in this country should feel hungry."

Edwards' six-point proposal urges Congress to pass a farm bill that would provide food stamps and support food banks. It asks lawmakers to reform the food stamps program to help more families get more assistance.

The plan also tells politicians in Washington to quickly provide $5.1 billion to help low income families pay their winter heating bills to free up extra money for food.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, said he would help low-income children get more access to healthy meals, support programs that provide meals for the elderly, and develop a new program that would identify and provide for neighborhoods that don't have full-service supermarkets.

More than 35.5 million people in the United States went hungry in 2006, according to a Department of Agriculture study. Of those, about one-third reported they had "very low food security," meaning they had a substantial disruption in the amount of food they typically eat.

Edwards said that while the hunger problem won't go away overnight, the nation needs new leadership to address it.

"If we have a president who's committed to it, who can take responsibility, we can move (that number) significantly and quickly," he said.

Edwards has brought to the presidential campaign trail a populist message defined by several proposals targeting the nation's poor. Among them, plans for universal health care, raising the minimum wage and revitalizing the economies of rural areas.

After announcing his domestic hunger plan, Edwards and his three children left home and took a five-minute drive in his hybrid sport utility vehicle to a Carrboro food pantry.

The family unloaded turkeys - some a little too heavy for Edwards' 7-year-old son, Jack. They also handed out meals to families and helped load bags of food into cars.

Jack and his 9-year-old sister, Emma Claire, talked with children their own age while older daughter Cate, 25, helped pack supplies. Edwards said his wife, Elizabeth, was at home amid days-long preparations for Thanksgiving dinner.

Although he acknowledged that campaigning didn't allow him much time to volunteer in places like a food shelter, Edwards launched a "One Can Change America" campaign.

It encourages his supporters to volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate canned food or toys, and ask their friends, co-workers and others to do the same.

Ex-Aide: Bush Misled Public On CIA Leak

(AP) Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan blames President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for efforts to mislead the public about the role of White House aides in leaking the identity of a CIA operative.

In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, McClellan recounts the 2003 news conference in which he told reporters that aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were "not involved" in the leak involving operative Valerie Plame.

"There was one problem. It was not true," McClellan writes, according to a brief excerpt released Tuesday. "I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself."

Bush's chief of staff at the time was Andrew Card.

The excerpt, posted on the Web site of publisher PublicAffairs, renews questions about what went on in the West Wing and how much Bush and Cheney knew about the leak. For years, it was McClellan's job to field - and often duck - those types of questions.

Now that he's spurring them, answers are equally hard to come by.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said it wasn't clear what McClellan meant in the excerpt and she had no immediate comment. McClellan turned down interview requests Tuesday.

Plame maintains the White House quietly outed her to reporters. Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, said the leak was retribution for his public criticism of the Iraq war. The accusation dogged the administration and made Plame a cause celebre among many Democrats.

McClellan's book, "What Happened," isn't due out until April, and the excerpt released Monday was merely a teaser. It doesn't get into detail about how Bush and Cheney were involved or reveal what happened behind the scenes.

In the fall of 2003, after authorities began investigating the leak, McClellan told reporters that he'd personally spoken to Rove, who was Bush's top political adviser, and Libby, who was Cheney's chief of staff.

"They're good individuals, they're important members of our White House team, and that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved," McClellan said at the time.

Both men, however, were involved. Rove was one of the original sources for the newspaper column that identified Plame. Libby also spoke to reporters about the CIA officer and was convicted of lying about those discussions. He is the only person to be charged in the case.

Since that news conference, however, the official White House stance has shifted and it has been difficult to get a clear picture of what happened behind closed doors around the time of the leak.

McClellan's flat denials gave way to a steady drumbeat of "no comment." And Bush's original pledge to fire anyone involved in the leak became a promise to fire anyone who "committed a crime."

In a CNN interview earlier this year, McClellan made no suggestion that Bush knew either Libby or Rove was involved in the leak. McClellan said his statements to reporters were what he and the president "believed to be true at the time based on assurances that we were both given."

Bush most recently addressed the issue in July after commuting Libby's 30-month prison term. He acknowledged that some in the White House were involved in the leak. Then, after repeatedly declining to discuss the ongoing investigation, he said the case was closed and it was time to move on.

Democrat: Bush Is Blocking New Iraq Course

(AP) A Democratic senator on Saturday accused President Bush and congressional Republicans of hindering his party's attempts to chart a new course in Iraq even though U.S. troops are fighting violence "they cannot possibly resolve."

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said increased troop levels ordered earlier this year to give Iraqi politicians breathing space to meet political and diplomatic goals have not had the intended result.

"That means our troops are fighting for a peace that we seem more interested in achieving than the Iraqi politicians do themselves," Casey said while delivering the Democrats' weekly radio address.

The White House has said there have been positive developments in Iraq, such as a reduction in violence and increased economic capacity.

On Friday, Senate Republicans blocked a $50 billion Democratic bill that would have paid for several months of combat. It also would have ordered troop withdrawals from Iraq to begin within 30 days and set a goal of ending combat in December 2008.

Democrats now plan to sit on Bush's $196 billion request for war spending until next year, which pushes the Pentagon toward an accounting nightmare.

Bush has said Congress should not be telling military leaders what to do.

Casey said the war is costing Americans at all levels. More than 3,800 U.S. troops have died in Iraq - 178 from his home state of Pennsylvania. Democrats on Congress' Joint Economic Committee estimated this past week that about $1 trillion has been spent on the war, he said.

About 170,000 troops will spend Thanksgiving in Iraq, he said.

"They will face hatred they did not create and sectarian violence they cannot possibly resolve," Casey said. "They are doing a remarkable job, a heroic job, but the Iraqi leaders are not holding up their end of the bargain."

Sparks Fly In Democratic Debate

(AP) Under pressure in a feisty campaign debate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday night the American people "know where I stand" and accused her rivals of distorting her record and slinging mud "right out of the Republican playbook."

"There's nothing personal about this," countered former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who joined Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in bluntly accusing Clinton of constantly switching positions on Social Security, driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and other issues.

"What the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions, and that is not what we have seen from Senator Clinton on a host of issues," added Obama.

The three-way confrontation reduced the other Democratic presidential hopefuls on the debate stage to the uncomfortable role of spectator yet it perfectly captured the race for the party's nomination seven weeks before the kickoff Iowa caucuses.

Clinton leads in the nationwide polls, but recent surveys in Iowa show she, Obama and Edwards are in a virtual dead heat.

Obama was the first to challenge Clinton, saying it took two weeks to "get a clear answer" on whether she supports or opposes issuing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. "The same is true on Social Security," he said.

For the first time in a debate since the campaign began, Clinton swiftly answered in kind. "When it came time to step up and decide whether or not he would support universal health care coverage he chose not to do that," she said of Obama. She added his plan would leave 15 million people without coverage - the population of Iowa and three other early voting states in the nominating campaign.

Edwards was next to accuse Clinton of trying to have it both ways - with the war in Iraq, Social Security and defining the scope of President Bush's power to use military force against Iran. "She says she will bring change to Washington while she continues to defend a system that does not work, that is broken, that is rigged, that is corrupt," added the former North Carolina senator.

"I've just been personally attacked again," Clinton broke in. "I don't mind taking hits on my record on issues, but when somebody starts throwing mud at least we can hope it's accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook."

The debate unfolded on a stage at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The state holds caucuses on Jan. 19 - following Iowa on Jan. 3 and most likely the New Hampshire primary several days later.

For New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, the opening moments were frustrating - and they repeatedly tried to break in.

"O, no, don't make me speak," Biden said in mock horror when moderator Wolf Blitzer called on him roughly 15 minutes into the proceedings.

"Let's stop the mudslinging," said Richardson.

Yet Richardson, who has campaigned in Nevada more than any other presidential hopeful, took verbal shots at Clinton and her two closest pursuers in the polls.

He said Edwards is engaging in class warfare, Obama was trying to start a generational war and questioned whether Clinton wanted to truly end the Iraq war. "All I want to do is give peace a chance," he said.

The focus on Clinton from the debate's opening moments was hardly surprising.

The New York senator herself has conceded she turned in a sub-par performance at the last debate, when she stumbled on a question about driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. Her husband, the former president, leapt to her defense in the interim, saying of her rivals: "Those boys have been getting tough on her lately."

The setting underscored Nevada's newly prominent role in the nominating process. The state is far more racially diverse than either Iowa or New Hampshire, with a population that is about 22 percent Hispanic and 10 percent black.

Democrats in Nevada hoped the focus on their state would prompt candidates to pay closer heed to Western issues like water, grazing and mining rights.

But it was more than an hour into the two-hour debate before the issue of energy came up.

Instead, Clinton drew the first question - and moments later the first barb from Obama.

Despite her critics, she said, "I think the American people know where I've stood for 35 years," adding she had been fighting for children, workers, families and universal health care.

More than an hour later, Dodd sought to turn the focus back onto Clinton, saying she had changed positions on trade by announcing her support for a deal with Peru at the same time she advocates a "time out" for such agreements.

Moments earlier, Clinton gave a careful answer when asked whether she now viewed the North American Free Trade Agreement - a product of her husband's administration - to be a mistake.

"NAFTA is a mistake to the extent it did not deliver what we hoped it would," she said.

Poll: Top Democrats Deadlocked In Iowa

(CBS) Democrats and Republicans are both headed toward heated showdowns in Iowa, where, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll, Hillary Clinton holds a statistically insignificant lead over John Edwards and Barack Obama, and GOP hopeful Mitt Romney finds his long-held position as the state's front-runner challenged by a surging Mike Huckabee.

The situation in Iowa, where nominating caucuses are scheduled for Jan. 3, is in stark contrast to New Hampshire, where Clinton and Romney continue to hold large leads among those likely to vote in the state's first-in-the-nation primary, which could come only days after Iowa's contests.

But in both states, large chunks of voters have yet to make up their minds, meaning the results of the contests that will kick off the 2008 nominating season are still difficult to predict.

In Iowa, the Democratic contest is knotted up. Among likely caucus-goers, Clinton came out on top with 25 percent support, but she was trailed closely by Edwards at 23 percent, and Obama at 22 percent. With a margin of error of 4 percentage points, there is no clear leader. Trailing behind was Bill Richardson, at 12 percent, with all other candidates in single digits.

None of the top three has firmed up their support yet - about half of those backing each candidate said they could change their minds before caucus night. Despite that fluidity, there are some clear patterns that show how important it will be for each candidate to turn out certain groups of voters: Women have a strong preference for Clinton, favoring her over Edwards by 10 percent and Obama by 12 percent. Obama leads among those under the age of 45 - 39 percent of that group backed the Illinois senator, compared to 25 percent for Clinton and 18 percent for Edwards. While Obama and Clinton are nearly tied for support among first-time caucus-goers, previous attendees give Edwards a narrow edge over Clinton.

Read The Complete CBS News/NY Times Poll
The findings indicate that if older and established voters dominate turnout, the caucuses could be a two-way contest between Clinton and Edwards. If the Obama campaign succeeds in its bid to bring young voters and first-time caucus-goers out on Jan. 3, however, it could leave Iowa with a win and a crucial momentum boost headed into later contests. Doing so will be a challenge: Only a third of possible first-time attendees say they will "definitely" attend the caucuses, compared with six in 10 of previous attendees.

One factor in Obama's favor is that nearly two-thirds of the state's independent voters who plan on voting on Jan. 3 say they'll attend the Democratic caucus. Obama attracts the support of 37 percent of those voters, compared to only 17 percent for Edwards and 15 percent for Clinton.

The priorities of Iowans will also be crucial. Clinton is seen as the most electable in November 2008 by a wide margin. However, Obama is clearly seen as the most likely to bring about change in Washington and Edwards holds a strong edge on the question of who understands the problems of Iowans.

Poll: Clinton, Romney Lead In N.H.

(AP) The Democratic race in the key early primary state of New Hampshire has tightened with Barack Obama gaining ground on front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to a new poll released Sunday.

On the Republican side, support for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has grown slightly since the last poll of New Hampshire voters in October, according to the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

Among Democrats, Clinton, the New York senator, led with 36 percent, followed by Illinois senator Obama with 25 percent. Former North Carolina senator John Edwards had 14 percent, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson 6 percent.

Romney led all Republicans with 33 percent, followed by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani with 22 percent and Arizona Sen. John McCain with 13 percent. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee each had 7 percent, with former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson at 5 percent.

In the October poll, Clinton led Obama by 40 percent to 20 percent, while Romney had 25 percent to Giuliani's 21 percent.

Another poll of New Hampshire voters released Sunday showed similar results. The poll conducted for The Boston Globe by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed Clinton leading with 35 percent, followed by Obama at 21 percent, Edwards at 15 percent and Richardson at 10 percent. Among Republicans, Romney had 32 percent to Giuliani's 20 percent. McCain was close behind with 17 percent and Paul had 7 percent.

The New Hampshire primary in early January is one of the first key tests in the presidential nominating process, serving to provide momentum to the front-runners and winnow the field.

The Marist poll found that nearly two-thirds of Clinton's supporters strongly support her, while roughly half of Obama's say the same. About half of Romney's and Giuliani's backers express firm support.

Terrorism, the economy and immigration are the top concerns cited by likely Republican voters, while Democrats name the war in Iraq, the economy and health care, according to the Marist poll.

The Marist poll involved telephone interviews conducted Nov. 2-6 with 458 likely Democratic voters and 372 likely Republican voters. The margins of sampling error were 5 percentage points for Democrats and 5.5 points for Republicans.

The Boston Globe poll found that although Romney and Clinton remain the front-runners in New Hampshire, they have yet to seal the race. Just 24 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans said they have "definitely decided" whom to support.

The poll shows Clinton with strong support on questions of experience and dealing with terrorism, but when asked who is "most trustworthy," 26 percent said Obama, compared to 19 percent each for Clinton and Edwards.

Romney has vulnerable spots, as well. Thirty-four percent of Republicans said Giuliani is the "strongest leader," compared to 26 percent for Romney. And Romney trailed McCain and Giuliani on the question of which candidate is best able to deal with terrorism.

Bill Clinton: Blame Me For Health Care

(AP)  Former President Clinton said Thursday that he is to blame for his administration's failed health care plan, not his wife, who spearheaded the effort.

Clinton was asked about the plan during a campaign event, where he spoke to about 600 people crowded into a YMCA gymnasium. The health care effort was led by then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, now a New York senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"She has taken the rap for some of the problems we had with health care the last time that were far more my fault than hers," the former president said.

He said part of the problem was a lack of money to finance the health care expansion. Money could be available this time to pay for expanded health care, such as the universal health care plan Hillary Clinton has proposed.

"This time, when you let the tax cuts for upper-income people expire, it'll create a pool of money that wasn't there last time," Bill Clinton said. "We told her she had to get to universal coverage and there would be no new money. She had to figure out how to do it."

Clinton added that his wife's plan faced opposition in Congress, in part, because they had an attitude of "just say no to Bill Clinton."

When asked by a reporter about the former president's comments, Sen. Barack Obama, a rival for the presidential nomination, said Hillary Clinton shouldn't tout her experience and then not take responsibility for the failures.

"If part of your basis for experience is the work you did on health care, then presumably when it didn't work out, that's part of the experience as well," Obama said during a brief stop outside a convenience store and gas station in Albia.

"We're focused on trying to deliver a message of the kind of president I would be and why I think I would be the best nominee for the Democratic Party," Obama said. "My understanding is that President Clinton is not on the ballot."

Climate Is A Risky Issue For Democrats

All of the leading Democratic contenders for the presidency are committed to a set of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that would change the way Americans light their homes, fuel their automobiles and do their jobs, costing billions of dollars in the short term but potentially, the candidates say, saving even more in the decades to follow.

Former senator John Edwards (N.C.), who from the outset has made global warming one of the three pillars of his campaign, explains his ambitious plan to Democratic primary voters in terms of sacrifice.

"I know what presidential candidates are supposed to do; they roll in here every four years and they promise you this, they promise you that. What I'm going to do is tell you the truth," Edwards says at nearly every campaign stop. "It won't be easy, but it is time for a president who asks Americans to be patriotic about something other than war."

The strong medicine Edwards and his fellow candidates are selling -- an 80 percent cut in greenhouse gases from 1990s levels by 2050 -- tracks with a plan espoused by scientists. But it is a plan that will require a wholesale transformation of the nation's economy and society.

In a speech yesterday in Iowa, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) said she plans to address climate change and the nation's energy needs by launching an effort to require U.S. vehicles to average 55 miles per gallon by 2030 and providing $20 billion in "Green Vehicle Bonds" to help the auto industry transform to production of more efficient cars. Clinton estimated that by 2030, her plan would cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds compared with current projections.

"This is the biggest challenge we've faced in a generation -- a challenge to our economy, our security, our health and our planet. It's time for America to meet it," Clinton said. ". . . I believe America is ready to take action, ready to break the bonds of the old energy economy and ready to prove that the climate crisis is also one of the greatest economic opportunities in the history of our country. . . . It will be a new beginning for the 21st century."

According to energy expert Tracy Terry's analysis of a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, under the scenario of an 80 percent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels, by 2015 Americans could be paying 30 percent more for natural gas in their homes and even more for electricity. At the same time, the cost of coal could quadruple and crude oil prices could rise by an additional $24 a barrel.

"I'd be the first to tell you: This is not necessarily the greatest political calculation," Edwards acknowledged in an interview, adding that audiences tend to pause before expressing their support when he lays out his climate plan. "No matter what the politics are, there's such a moral responsibility to address this issue. We've got to do it."

In a Des Moines speech last month, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) predicted that new technology will ultimately bring rising energy costs back down. "But at least on the front end, there's going to be some costs, and we can't pretend like there's a free lunch," he told the crowd.

While Democrats are working to outdo each other on climate change -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, for example, supports a 90 percent greenhouse gas reduction by midcentury -- GOP presidential candidates remain more skeptical, to say the least. Former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) stands by his commentary on National Review Online that warming on other planets has led some people "to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle."

Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said in the wake of Gore's Nobel Prize win that when it comes to global warming, "if we try to deal with it at too hysterical a pace, we could create problems."

Bush The Elder Won't Go Easy On Hillary

(AP) Former President George H.W. Bush says the post-White House friendship he has nurtured with the man who turned him out of office won't make him go any easier on his successor's wife, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Bush and former President Clinton in recent years have worked together on numerous charitable causes, including jointly raising money for victims of the Indonesian tsunami in late 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"And I might say I've enjoyed playing golf with the guy," Bush said.

But none of that will make him hold his tongue against Hillary Clinton, who leads the Democratic presidential nomination race.

"I'm enough older that he has treated me with great deference and I would say friendship. And so there is a friendship there," Bush said of former President Clinton in a taped interview broadcast on "Fox News Sunday."

"But just as he's not going to tiptoe about his differences with the president, I wouldn't tiptoe with my differences with Hillary," Bush said. "But I don't plan to be all involved in this."

Bush also was asked to explain the country's attachment to the Bushes and Clintons. A Bush or Clinton has been on the ballot in every presidential contest since 1980; Bush's son, George W., is finishing his second term as president.

"Well, I don't know that it's an attachment to families. I think it's being in the right place politically at a certain time," the elder Bush said.

He said the American people have a way of sorting these things out.

"They go to caucuses or go to the primaries and just work, grind your way up the - to whatever lies ahead, and that's what's happened. There hasn't been any anointing in the process," he said.

The former president also said he's not as sure as he once was that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination.

"In her own party there seems to be more willingness to take her on and to argue about stuff," he said. "But she's a formidable opponent and she's done very well, in my view. Now would I be for her? No."

Illegal Immigrant License Debate Heats Up


The question of whether or not illegal immigrants should have access to driver's licenses has stayed under the radar for most of the 2008 presidential campaign.

But that changed Tuesday night, when Sen. Hillary Clinton made vague comments at a Democratic presidential debate about whether or not she supports New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer's driver's license proposal. Clinton's rivals quickly criticized her for what they characterized as a refusal to take a position on the issue.

Spitzer's revised plan calls for a system in which three licenses will be available to New York residents. One type of license, which would be available to legal residents, would conform to the Real ID Act of 2005, a controversial federal standard designed to tighten homeland security by making it more difficult for illegal immigrants to get state driver's licenses. This license would be sufficient identification for residents who want to fly domestically. Critics, among them the ACLU, contend that compliance with the Act "would turn state driver's licenses into a national ID card." Fourteen states have refused to comply over potential cost and privacy implications.

A second type of license would allow residents to cross the border between Canada and the United States without a passport. The third, which would be available to illegal immigrants, would be used solely for driving and identification, and would allow those who hold it to get auto insurance.

After the debate, the Clinton campaign issued a statement on the Spitzer plan, which did not put to rest questions about her position on it.

"Senator Clinton supports governors like Governor Spitzer who believe they need such a measure to deal with the crisis caused by this administration's failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform," the statement said. "As President, her goal will be to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would make this unnecessary."

A number of states have implemented plans that allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses. Critics charge that such policies create a security risk and encourage illegal immigrants to come to America.

"The public feels illegal aliens should receive no benefits from the government," William Gheen of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC said in an interview with CBS News. "Licenses, in state tuition, anything short of emergency medical care will only attract more illegal aliens."

But supporters of such legislation say it's a mistake not to document illegal immigrants.

"This is a really bad issue to have a substantive disagreement on," said Muzaffar Chishti of the Migration Policy Institute痴 office at the New York University law school. "Every expert out there thinks it's a good idea to give driver's licenses to the undocumented."

Chishti said it is important to have data on everyone in the country, undocumented or otherwise, for security reasons. "The pragmatic response is to have them in a database," he said.

Spitzer's compromise plan, worked out in concert with the Department of Homeland Security after an earlier plan to grant a single type of license to both legal residents and illegal immigrants met with opposition, has been criticized from both sides.

The Spitzer plan "is potentially the worst of all possibilities," said Chishti. "He's telling the undocumented 'we're going to give you a driver's license, but it will clearly say this is not for federal purposes. It will indicate to anyone who looks at it that you are not here legally.'" Chishti said illegal immigrants "will be very, very reticent" to apply for such a document.

A debate over this issue arose four years ago in the state of California, when then-Governor Grey Davis signed legislation allowing illegal immigrants to get licenses. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigned on his opposition to the legislation, and after Davis was recalled, and Schwarzenegger became governor, it was repealed.

Five of Clinton's six opponents at the Democratic debate say they support states issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. After Clinton seemed to back Spitzer's proposal, Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, who does not support the policy, said the "idea that we're going to extend this privilege here of a driver's license, I think, is troublesome."

Clinton responded that "I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Gov. Spitzer is trying to do it." The comment prompted John Edwards to charge that "Sen. Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes." Sen. Barack Obama said he "was confused on Sen. Clinton's answer" and "can't tell whether she was for it or against it."

The Republican presidential hopefuls, most of whom have taken a hard line on illegal immigration, also criticized Clinton over the comments. A spokesman for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney characterized the former first lady as being "dismissive of efforts to enforce our nation's immigration laws and entirely unwilling to offer a straight answer to a very direct question."

Illegal immigration can be a tough issue for presidential candidates from both parties. Many Republican primary voters favor tightening the U.S. borders, and the GOP hopefuls have tried to look tough on the question of giving rights to undocumented residents. Democrats have largely backed giving legal status to undocumented workers, but have sometimes differed on issues of enforcement. Both parties are wary of alienating Latino voters, who represent a sizable and rapidly growing voting bloc.

"All the questions you have seen in the [Democratic] debate are dealing with enforcement," said Chishti. "And that's where you are beginning to see fudging."

Edwards Makes New Push Against Clinton

(AP) John Edwards on Monday cast Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and her ties to lobbyists as part of a corrupt Washington system that voters should reject in the presidential election.

Edwards railed against the "bankruptcy of our political leadership," an approach that his campaign said would be a major thrust of his efforts in the two months before the first nomination voting. With Clinton appearing to gain strength with every poll, Edwards seemed less to target Republican President Bush's leadership than to cast fellow Democrat Clinton as the insider whom voters should reject

"This corruption did not begin yesterday - and it did not even begin with George Bush, although Lord knows it's been present while George Bush has been president," the 2004 vice presidential nominee said in a speech at St. Anselm College. "It has been building for decades until it now threatens literally the life of our democracy."

"Senator Clinton's road to the middle class takes a major detour right through the deep canyon of corporate lobbyists and the hidden bidding of K Street in Washington," he said. "And history tells us that when that bus stops there, it is the middle class that loses."

Edwards' speech was subdued and direct. The campaign did not set up a flashy venue - he spoke from a podium in a small stripped-down academic auditorium with just one well-worn campaign banner hanging behind him. He read from his remarks and didn't make any attempt to fire up the crowd and draw applause.

He cast the 2008 election as the culmination of an epic struggle between Washington greed and the power of the people. "This is the moral test of our generation," Edwards said.

"Down one path, we trade corporate Republicans for corporate Democrats; our cronies for their cronies; one political dynasty for another dynasty, and all we are left with is a Democratic version of the Republican corruption machine," he said.

Although Clinton has become the clear front-runner in the Democratic primary, she still has a vulnerability - a tight race in the leadoff state of Iowa where Edwards and Barack Obama are within striking distance in current polls. But Edwards' support has dropped, according to a University of Iowa Hawkeye poll out Monday.

The poll had Clinton with 29 percent, Obama with 27 percent and Edwards with 20. Edwards was down six points from August.

Clinton's lead is stronger in New Hampshire, the other early-voting state.

Her campaign said Edwards was turning to attack politics.

"In 2004, John Edwards said, 'If you are looking for the candidate that will do the best job of attacking the other Democrats, I am not your guy,"' said Clinton spokesman Phil Singer. "But now that his campaign has stalled, he's become that guy."

With many voters unhappy with Mr. Bush's presidency, Democratic candidates have been promoting themselves as agents of change. That includes Clinton, but Edwards is challenging her and trying to make the race a referendum on who will bring real change to Washington.

"Maybe I have been freed from the system and the fear that holds back politicians because I have learned that there are much more important things in life than winning elections at the cost of selling your soul," Edwards said.

"I saw the chase for campaign money at any cost by the front-runner in this race," Edwards said. "And I chose not join it because the cost to our nation and our children is not worth the hollow victory by any candidate."

The former North Carolina senator said Clinton has refused to accept his challenge not to accept political donations from Washington lobbyists. Clinton has gained strength in the polls since Edwards started making that case several months ago, but he said he thinks it will make the difference in the election.

Singer responded by questioning Edwards' ties to special interests. Edwards has taken donations from industries that employ federal lobbyists, though he doesn't take donations directly from the lobbyists themselves. "If Mr. Edwards is so concerned about the influence of special interests, he should give back the hundreds of thousands of dollars he's taken from health care, securities, and insurance companies," Singer said.

Edwards: Demand Corporate Responsibility

(AP) Democrat John Edwards on Friday released a plan he said would demand corporate responsibility, including limits on executive compensation packages and requirements that big businesses operate more openly.

The presidential candidate said his plan would also restore retirement security for the middle class through tax reforms and savings help, allowing more people to put aside money and purchase stock from companies. He said those companies would perform better for regular workers under his proposed corporate reforms.

"What does Washington do while corporate profits climb and the wealth of the very wealthiest grows - all at the expense of the vast majority of hardworking Americans? It circles the wagons around the people who are already doing the best," Edwards said in remarks prepared for delivery that were provided to The Associated Press. "Instead of protecting the compact of equal opportunity and shared prosperity, Washington protects corporate profits and hoards prosperity."

Under his plan, Edwards wants to:

  • Require corporations to disclose lobbying activities, political contributions, environmental impacts and government contracts and subsidies.

  • Give shareholders new rights regarding corporate governance, allowing them more say in decisions such as executive compensation.

  • Protect consumers from abusive financial products, such as high-cost mortgages and lines of credit, and payday loans.

  • Modernize labor laws to help workers join unions and bargain for better pay and benefits.

  • Create universal retirement accounts that would require employers to offer savings plans for workers who can't access pensions.

    The former North Carolina senator said it's important to force companies to honor their pension promises. In recent years, he said, about two-thirds of companies have frozen their plans, and many workers are seeing cutbacks in their pensions. Companies also should not be allowed to classify workers as contractors to avoid paying them benefits, Edwards said.

    Edwards, who wants to mandate universal health care, said businesses should be required to provide coverage for their workers, or help them purchase coverage.

    Voters' Choice In 2008: Mom Versus Dad

    On its current trajectory, the race for president in 2008 may turn voters into children of divorce - forced to choose between Mom and Dad.

    The contest comes as something of a surprise. Many strategists expected that Hillary Rodham Clinton, as the first woman to wage a leading presidential campaign, would decide to play down policies, rhetoric and campaign imagery that would remind voters - especially skeptical male voters - of traditionally feminine roles or issue priorities.

    Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, was supposed to have the opposite gender challenge. His image as the crime-busting mayor who rallied his stricken city after Sept. 11 gave him plenty of credibility on strength. What he needed, the thinking went, was to show voters - especially wary female voters - a softer and more empathetic side.

    As it happens, the expectation that Clinton and Giuliani would spend much of their time playing against type when it comes to gender politics has turned out to be mostly wrong.

    Clinton is indeed concerned about projecting strength. But she is doing it by unabashedly invoking her woman's perspective and presenting her diverse biography with a maternal emphasis. Her campaign tour last week focused on "women changing America." She told stories of raising her daughter, Chelsea, while unveiling a new $1 billion family-leave proposal.

    Giuliani, for his part, has decided for now that his best side is his hard side. He speaks of taming crime as if New York City before his administration was an unruly adolescent - lots of potential in need of a firm hand. At every turn, he emphasizes the threats facing the country in an age of terrorism - dangers he says Democrats do not understand. Of his own biography, he says it shows an occasionally flawed person who is nonetheless precisely the kind of aggressive leader the times demand.

    If the two front-runners maintain their position, the precedent-shattering 2008 may in the end have a very traditional feel - a contest between two classic American archetypes, each designed in different ways to convey conviction and reassurance.

    "If it does come down to Hillary versus Rudy, it is at one level a showdown between the iconography of matriarchal womanhood and the cowboy riding to the rescue," said Susan Faludi, an author who has spent two decades studying gender and American society.

    In this vein, Giuliani invokes a mantra on the trail that "weakness invites attack; strength keeps you safe." He stated he would "guarantee" Iran would not use nuclear weapons if he were president. He has defended his conservative credentials, stating, "I gave my blood for the Republican Party," as if politics were combat. He accuses Democrats of supporting "nanny government."

    Clinton's latest rhetoric, in contrast, represents a subtle but distinct shift over time in her national profile. As a senator preparing for a presidential run, some commentators perceived that she was positioning herself as an American, Democratic version of Margaret Thatcher - a woman who projected an austere and even martial bearing. Her campaign now believes that she has cleared a "threshold" of being trustworthy on national security, said Ann Lewis, her director of women's outreach. This has apparently given her latitude to put greater emphasis on domestic issues - such as her recent floating of a proposal to give a $5,000 "baby bond" to every child born in the United States - as well as on maternal themes.

    Last week at a YWCA in Manchester, N.H., she recounted the struggle to balance her law career with motherhood. "Late one night, [Chelsea] was crying inconsolably. I said, 'Chelsea, you've never been a baby before, and I've never been a mother before; we're just going to have to work and figure this out'" Clinton recalled.

    In a revealing contrast to how parental roles are invoked on the campaign trail, Clinton talks more about child-rearing than Republican Mitt Romney - even though he has five sons.

    One challenge for Clinton is to promote herself as a believer in traditional values without seeming to abandon her roots as an outspoken feminist.

    "She has to build a very big coalition, and I appreciate the difficulty of doing that. A lot of feminists tend to put people off," said Frances Rosenbluth, a Yale political science and gender studies professor. "Hillary already has a reputation as not being quite normal, not quite average, not quite a regular American woman. She's trying to say, 'Yeah, I am.'"

    The language of familiarity and comfort is found throughout her campaign. Her official campaign biography presents her as a woman "raised in a middle-class family in the middle of America."

    However, Clinton spent much of her life pushing very publicly against the confines of traditional gender roles - a part of her biography with uncertain political consequences.

    In a 1969 commencement speech at Wellesley College, she said her generation was seeking a more "immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living," and closed with a poem expressing hope that "hollow men of anger and bitterness" and the "bountiful ladies of righteous degradation" would be left to "a bygone age."

    In the 1992 campaign, she stirred controversy when she responded to ethics questions concerning her legal work by saying, "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession."

    Many stay-at-home mothers were put off, and she moved the next day to say she meant no offense.
    Clinton's shift in the past decade away from the most outspoken brand of feminism may be a response to the shift of American women. In 1986, a Gallup poll found that 56 percent of women called themselves a "feminist." By 2001, that number had fallen roughly 30 points, to a quarter of American women.

    "My sense of [Clinton] is that she is, before everything else, a supreme pragmatist," Faludi said. "She is certainly careful to avoid spouting women's lib rhetoric, and that goes back to her being a realist, and that goes back to where the culture is."

    Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway said Clinton is "an icon of the feminist movement who must run a campaign to appeal to women living in a post-feminist era."

    This presents a constant challenge of navigating conflicting sensitivities. At one recent debate, Clinton spoke of her experience standing up to the "right-wing machine." If Democrats want a candidate tough enough, she declared, "I'm your girl."

    Some feminists squirmed. "That might not have been my phrasing," said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal, referring to the use of the noun "girl."

    Even so, liberal women's organizations remain Clinton's biggest backers. Clinton's emphasis on family leave "resonates" with "women's rights activists," as Smeal put it. "Finally, someone is mainstreaming and centering our issues."

    Women are the "critical swing vote" in the coming presidential election, her chief strategist, Mark Penn, wrote in a recent memorandum.

    But if next year features a Clinton-Giuliani matchup, polling suggests Clinton faces a formidable challenge winning independent or even Republican women, as her campaign boasts it can do. A Gallup poll taken Oct. 12-14 testing a Clinton-Giuliani race showed that 57 percent of white women, married or single, who do not identify as Democrats, have an "unfavorable" view of Clinton. Nearly thre in four married white women who do not identify as Democrats said they would back Giuliani.

    "These are women who want strength in their political leaders, not namby-pamby leaders who appeal to liberal interest groups," Faludi said. Clinton, by these lights, must prove her strength not merely for men but for women, as well.

    But Giuliani likewise faces challenges in the gender politics of 2008.

    He will be running in the dusk of the Bush era, a time when the traditional masculine political archetype that benefited Republicans for decades may have lost credibility with some voters because of the current administration's failures on Iraq and Hurricane Katrina.

    Giuliani, Faludi posited, may find that, "Maybe it was a mistake to bet on 10-gallon-hat politics."

    Cheney: Iran Won't Get Nuclear Weapon

    (AP) The United States and other nations will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said.

    "Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions," Cheney said in a speech Sunday to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

    He said Iran's efforts to pursue technology that would allow it to build a nuclear weapon are obvious and that "the regime continues to practice delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time."

    If Iran continues on its current course, Cheney said the U.S. and other nations are "prepared to impose serious consequences." The vice president made no specific reference to military action.

    "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he said.

    Cheney's words seemed to only escalate the U.S. rhetoric against Iran over the past several days, including President George W. Bush's warning that a nuclear Iran could lead to "World War III."

    Cheney said the ultimate goal of the Iranian leadership is to establish itself as the hegemonic force in the Middle East and undermine a free Shiite-majority Iraq as a rival for influence in the Muslim world.

    Iran's government seeks "to keep Iraq in a state of weakness to ensure Baghdad does not pose a threat to Tehran," Cheney said.

    While he was critical of the Iranian government and President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, he offered praise and words of solidarity to the Iranian people. Iran "is a place of unlimited potential ... and it has the right to be free of tyranny," Cheney said.

    Cheney accused of Iran of having a direct role in the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and said the government has "solidified its grip on the country" since coming to power in the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the shah.

    The U.S. and some allies accuse Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and have demanded it halt uranium enrichment, an important step in the production of atomic weapons. Oil-rich Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes including generating electricity.

    At a news conference Wednesday, Mr. Bush suggested that if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, it could lead to a new world war.

    "I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," Mr. Bush said.

    Mr. Bush's spokeswoman later said the president was making not making any war plans but rather "a rhetorical point."

    Also, on Thursday, the top officer in the U.S. military said the U.S. has the resources to attack Iran if needed despite the strains of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said striking Iran is a last resort, and the focus now is on diplomacy to stem Iran's nuclear ambitions, but "there is more than enough reserve to respond" militarily if need be.

    The Bush administration's intentions toward Iran have been the subject of debate in Congress.

    Last month the Senate approved a resolution urging the State Department to label Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.

    Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, said he feared the measure could be interpreted as authorizing a military strike in Iran, calling it Cheney's "fondest pipe dream."

    Gore: I Have No Plans To Run

    (AP) Former Vice President Al Gore says winning the Nobel Peace Prize has not pushed him into entering the 2008 presidential race.

    "I don't have plans to be a candidate again, so I don't really see it in that context at all," Gore told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK in an interview broadcast Wednesday. "I'm involved in a different kind of campaign. It's a global campaign. It's a campaign to change the way people think about the climate crisis."

    NRK said it interviewed Gore in Nashville, Tenn.

    At a press conference last Friday in Palo Alto, California, Gore sidestepped the issue of a U.S. presidential run, saying then that he wanted to "get back to business" on "a planetary emergency."

    However, before winning the Nobel Prize he had said repeatedly that he has no plans to run for office in 2008.

    Gore shared the prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists. The scientific panel has explained the dry details of global warming in thousands of pages of footnoted reports every six years or so since 1990.

    Gore told NRK that it was a "great honor" to win the peace prize.

    "For me personally it means the chance to be more effective in trying to deliver this message about the climate crisis and the urgency of solving the climate crisis," he said.

    On Tuesday, a Gallup Poll found that there was no spike in support for Gore to run for office.

    Asked if they would like to see Gore run for president in 2008, people said no by a margin of 54 percent to 41 percent, according to the Gallup Poll, about the same as in March, when people opposed his running by 57 percent to 38 percent.

    Even among Democrats there was no visible surge of interest in Gore. In the new survey, 48 percent of them said they would like him to run and 43 percent said they would not. In March, Democrats were in favor of his entering the race by 54 percent to 41 percent -- statistically the same as the new poll.

    Poll: Clinton, Romney Lead In N.H. Races

    (AP) Hillary Rodham Clinton is holding a commanding lead over Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination in New Hampshire, a poll released Sunday found.

    Clinton, the New York senator, had the support of 40 percent of those surveyed compared to 20 percent for Obama, the Illinois senator, Marist College Institute for Public Opinion said.

    Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was third (12 percent) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson fourth (7 percent).

    On the Republican side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 25 percent held a slight edge over former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 21 percent. Sen. John McCain of Arizona was third at 18 percent, and Fred Thompson, the actor and former Tennessee senator, was fourth at 10 percent.

    The New Hampshire primary, traditionally held in January, plays a key role in the presidential nomination process because it is one of the first tests of the candidates' popularity with voters. A strong showing in New Hampshire can provide momentum for candidates in the next round of primaries in larger states.

    Voters in the primaries select delegates to their party's national presidential nominating convention who are pledged to different candidates.

    Clinton was the overwhelming choice among those polled who want a strong leader or someone who will bring about change - 44 percent chose her compared with 20 percent for Obama and 11 percent for Edwards.

    Clinton also drew the most support - 33 percent - from those questioned who ranked the Iraq war as their top issue. Clinton was seen as the most likely Democrat to win in November, getting the nod from 58 percent in the survey.

    In the Republican field, when people were asked to pick a strong leader, Romney got 29 percent, compared with 23 percent for McCain and 22 percent for Giuliani.

    Security against terrorism was the most important issue for Republican voters; on this issue, Romney was picked by 29 percent, and Giuliani and McCain by 21 percent each. Giuliani was picked by more people in the survey as having the best chance of winning in November - 36 percent versus 30 percent for Romney.

    The poll, done by Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, was conducted from Oct. 4-9 and involved telephone interviews with 1,512 registered voters and New Hampshire residents likely to register in time to vote in the presidential primary. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for Democratic primary voters and 4.5 percentage points for Republican primary voters.

    On the Net:

    Gore Urges Action After Nobel Prize Win

    (CBS/AP) Former Vice President Al Gore, newly named co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, said Friday he hopes the honor will "elevate global consciousness" about the challenges of global warming.

    Gore, whose documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," won an Academy Award earlier this year, was awarded the prize earlier in the day along with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international network of scientists, for spreading awareness of man-made climate change and laying the foundations for counteracting it.

    Shortly after the announcement, he pledged to donate his share of the $1.5 million prize money to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan nonprofit organization that is devoted to changing public opinion worldwide about the urgency of solving the climate crisis.

    "This is just the beginning," Gore told reporters at a meeting of the group. "Now is the time to elevate global consciousness about the challenges that we face."

    Gore had been widely tipped to win Friday's prize, which expanded the Norwegian committee's interpretation of peacemaking and disarmament efforts that have traditionally been the award's foundations.

    "We face a true planetary emergency," Gore said. "The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."

    The Nobel committee chairman, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, asserted that the prize was not aimed at the Bush administration, which rejected Kyoto and was widely criticized outside the U.S. for not taking global warming seriously enough.

    "We would encourage all countries, including the big countries, to challenge, all of them, to think again and to say what can they do to conquer global warming," Mjoes said. "The bigger the powers, the better that they come in front of this."

    The Norwegian Nobel Committee said global warming, "may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states."

    "His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change," the Nobel citation said. "He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted."

    Even before Gore's Nobel prize was announced, speculation began over whether a Nobel medal might cause Gore to consider becoming a candidate for president.

    Obama, Edwards Criticize Clinton On War

    (AP) Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's votes and statements on war and torture should give voters pause, Democratic rival Barack Obama said Wednesday on the fifth anniversary of Congress' vote to authorize military force in Iraq. Former Sen. John Edwards chimed in with his own criticism of Clinton on the war.

    Obama, who was in the Illinois state Senate at time of the vote, said the New York senator now is painting her support in a different light. “What's clear when you look at her statements and her approach to the problem, she was too willing to give the president a blank check. There's been a little bit of revisionist history since that time, where she indicates she was only authorizing only inspectors or additional diplomacy,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I think everybody in Washington and people in New Hampshire and round the country understood this was a vote for war. The question is: Does she apply different judgment today?” Edwards, who voted for the measure but has since apologized for that decision, said in a statement from North Carolina: “Unfortunately, political rhetoric aside, Senator Clinton has no specific plan to end the war in Iraq. Instead, she refuses to commit to a specific timeline for withdrawal and has made it clear that she will continue 'combat missions' in Iraq.” Obama and Edwards have been criticizing Clinton daily on the war and on a recent vote to label Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and links threats from it to the war in Iraq - a stance they suggest could affect U.S. commitments in the region.

    The Clinton campaign struck back. “It's unfortunate that Senator Obama is abandoning the politics of hope and embracing the same old attack politics as his support slips here in New Hampshire,” Clinton spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said. “Senator Obama is well aware that Senator Clinton will end the war in Iraq, opposes torture and has made clear that George Bush does not have the authority to attack Iran. Attacks on other Democrats won't bring about the change we need, but electing Senator Clinton will.” Obama, in the interview, also took issue with Clinton's statements on torture. At one time, she had said that in some narrow cases torture could be acceptable to protect the United States. She later retracted that. “The administration has tried to redefine torture in ways that would allow the CIA and other intelligence agencies to engage in brutal tactics that historically have been considered torture,” Obama said Wednesday. “We have to have a very clear line. I agree with John McCain on this, that the United States government does not torture people. It doesn't yield good intelligence, and it weakens our ability to deal with human rights abuses around the world.” “I think it's very important for any Democratic nominee to be very clear on this issue and not waffle,” he said.

    Obama dismissed a question about why, if Clinton is so wrong on the war, he is trailing her in the polls. He also said he doesn't think war with Iran is inevitable before President Bush leaves office in January 2009. Obama criticized Clinton's vote in support of a bill that would designate Iranian special forces as a terrorist organization. He said that was something that I think many of us would agree” was correct, but he took issue with “language in the bill that would state that the structure of our forces in Iraq should, in some sense, be dependent on our need to check Iran.” Obama, campaigning in New Hampshire, did not vote on that measure. “I think the American people recognize that given the mistakes in Iraq, we have to operate with deliberation and caution. I think Iran is a grave and serious threat to peace and stability in the Middle East. I don't think it's acceptable for them to possess nuclear weapons,” said Obama, who added that diplomacy hadn't yet been given a serious chance. “There is still time to do that, but we've got to have an administration that understands how to use those tools, and we haven't had that in this president,” he said. A Republican National Committee spokeswoman said the three Democrats are missing the point. “While President Bush is working to win the war on terror and protect our country for future generations, the Democratic presidential candidates are grappling about who supported surrender first,” Summer Johnson said.

    Iowa a Key Test for Democrats

    From the high altitude of national polls, the race for the Democratic nomination may seem a potential runaway for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.). From ground level in the state with the nation's first presidential caucuses, a far different reality exists. Here Clinton's path remains strewn with obstacles.

    Iowa has become ground zero in the Democratic race. The results here could instantly change the dynamic of what has been a campaign marked elsewhere by Clinton's relentless march forward. Here the Democratic front-runner faces stiff challenges not only from Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) but also from former senator John Edwards (N.C.).

    Clinton's Iowa problem has been evident from the day she entered the race in January, and it is the result of a confluence of factors that appear to exist nowhere else in the country right now. They include support for Edwards that far outpaces his backing elsewhere, the spillover effect of Obama's next-door-neighbor status as a senator from Illinois and strong organizational efforts by both her rivals.

    "I think it's a function of the others running so strong here, it's difficult [for her] to break away," said Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan.

    Part of the problem rests with Clinton herself. "When she became a candidate, she attracted the largest percentage of negatives among Democrats of any of the candidates," said J. Ann Selzer, who conducts the Iowa Poll for the Des Moines Register. "She's got people who just don't like her."

    Clinton has made progress over the course of eight months of campaigning, easing but not yet erasing doubts about her support for the Iraq war and perceptions of her as cool and aloof. One sign of that progress came in a new Iowa Poll, published in today's Des Moines Register, showing her leading with 29 percent, Edwards at 23 percent and Obama at 22 percent.

    Still, that Clinton has not fully solved her image problem is evident by the name her campaign has given to the bus tour she begins Monday in Cedar Rapids. They have dubbed it the "Middle Class Express" tour, as if to remind voters that she cares about the problems of hard-working Iowans.

    Teresa Vilmain, Clinton's Iowa director, said the senator from New York has made "great strides since spring" in reaching Iowa voters, but she was quick to add: "We have a lot of work to do. John Edwards is still very strong."

    Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, an Obama supporter, said factors that influence national polls -- including a candidate's name identification and being seen as a front-runner -- are less important in Iowa because voters have more direct contact with candidates.
    "Here it's a real campaign, where people are seeing the candidates close up, hearing speeches, they're being contacted by staff and volunteers," he said. "It's a much more active and intense campaign, and people are getting a much bigger, clearer view of the candidates than people are nationally. That's a huge difference."

    Clinton has much on the line in Iowa, but so, too, do Obama and Edwards. They know that stopping Clinton here is essential. A defeat for Edwards probably would end his campaign, and he has said as much. Obama aides play down expectations by repeating the mantra that he has to only "do well" in Iowa, but the candidate's wife, Michelle, said recently that, if he loses here, the campaign will have been but a dream.

    Clinton may be able to survive a loss in Iowa, but many strategists believe that a loss to Obama would be far more crippling than a loss to Edwards.

    The intensity of the campaign here is astonishing. Obama spent four days crisscrossing the northeast quadrant of the state last week. Edwards is retracing some of those steps this weekend with a four-day swing of his own. Clinton was to arrive Saturday night for a four-day tour. No other state, including New Hampshire, has seen such a concentration of campaigning.

    Obama already has spent just over $3 million on television ads. With the heaviest barrage of advertising still to come, he will set records for TV spending. Clinton, who has spent about $1.4 million by one estimate, could do the same before the Iowa campaign is over.

    Clinton is not even the second-largest spender on television ads at this point. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has put down $1.8 million for a series of humorous commercials that have helped him gain some momentum.

    But Richardson, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) -- all with at least pockets of support -- struggle against the reality that the three leading candidates are waging a precinct-by-precinct battle of organizers that they are so far ill-equipped to match.

    Obama has an army of field operators in the state, deployed from 31 field offices, compared with 22 for Clinton and 15 for Edwards. His advisers refuse to give out the number of staffers on the ground here, but it is believed to be far in excess of the numbers Clinton and Edwards have recruited.

    At his rallies, Obama rarely forgets to praise his "underpaid and under-appreciated" field organizers, and they are diligent about educating people about the caucus process.

    Edwards's crowds and Iowa staff are smaller in numbers, but the breadth of his support worries his rivals. Building on his second-place finish here in 2004, Edwards has spent the past three years nurturing a base spread across a state whose caucus rules reward balanced support everywhere more than concentrated support in a few areas.

    Already Edwards has visited 76 of Iowa's 99 counties, compared with 56 counties for Obama and 31 for Clinton.

    All the campaigns report that well over half of the prospective caucus attendees are undecided at this point, and the history of the caucuses is that a sizable percentage of voters do not make a final decision until the final few weeks before the voting.

    When all the candidates came to Iowa last month for Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry, Linda Bollenbaugh of Boone was among the more than 15,000 Democrats in the crowd. She carried placards for Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Biden, and said Richardson's speech impressed her, too.

    An Edwards backer in 2004, she said she is now undecided and paying very close attention. "I'm looking for more depth now, more details," she said.

    Edwards: Restrict Private Contractors

    (AP) Democrat John Edwards called Friday for new restrictions on the use of private contractors to provide security services in combat areas, including blocking such companies from giving to political parties and candidates.

    Edwards linked his proposal to charges that the company Blackwater USA had engaged in random violence in Iraq that's led to the deaths of innocent civilians and prompted a congressional investigation. He also charged that Mark Penn, a top adviser to rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, has done work for Blackwater.

    "We don't want to replace a group of corporate Republicans with a bunch of corporate Democrats," Edwards said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

    Edwards said his plan would virtually eliminate the use of private contractors to provide security services and would put sharp restrictions when such services are allowed. Private forces have spiraled out of control, Edwards said, with more than 50,000 operating in Iraq with few restrictions or oversight.

    "They don't have rules of engagement and they don't have legal oversight," Edwards said.

    Those private security forces allowed under Edwards' plan would be within the Pentagon chain of command, he said.

    Edwards said private security firm undercuts the accountability of the nation's volunteer military.

    "It undermines the purpose of having a volunteer army," said Edwards.

    Edwards said his plan also would ban private security companies from donating to politicians because such contributions played a role in the Blackwater situation. He argued that Blackwater won lucrative contracts in Iraq after becoming a reliable contributor to the GOP.

    "Blackwater has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans and to President Bush," said Edwards.

    Edwards released his plan as he opened another intensive campaign swing through Iowa, planning stops in 17 counties over four days.

    Most polls have shown him near the top of the Democratic field in Iowa, along with Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Clinton, however, leads in national polls and Edwards is betting his campaign on a solid showing in Iowa's precinct caucuses, giving him a boost heading into New Hampshire and other early voting states.

    In this Iowa visit, Edwards will focus on his proposal to immediately pull as many as 40,000 troops out of Iraq. He said Blackwater's problems offer one more example of how Bush has mismanaged the war.

    "The recent incidents of violence involving Blackwater contractors in Iraq, including the shooting of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad last month, has caused tremendous damage to America's battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis," said Edwards. "These incidents hurt America's moral standing both in Iraq and around the world, and they serve as a tragic reminder of how the Bush administration has outsourced our military responsibilities to corporate contractors and political cronies who operate outside the rules of engagement and without any meaningful oversight."

    Edwards said Blackwater's role has expanded well beyond traditional security to include loading weapons systems and sometimes engaging in combat operations.

    Those forces can't be allowed to operate outside the chain of command and without control by the judicial system, he argued. Iraqis don't distinguish between soldiers and civilians, he said, but simply see excesses committed by Americans.

    Clinton relaxed over Hillary bid

    Bill Clinton at a book signing in London (04/10)

    Former US President Bill Clinton has told the BBC he would take a back seat in the White House should his wife Hillary be elected president in 2008.

    Mr Clinton said he was not worried by the prospect, and told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 that he would not be a "president by proxy".

    He would be "the happiest person on earth" if she was elected, adding that his wife would make a great president.

    Mr Clinton said he could take a role promoting the US around the world.

    The new President Clinton, he added, would be the only one making policy decisions.

    Clear asset

    Mr Clinton did not rule out giving Mrs Clinton advice once she was installed in the White House.

    But he said he could best imagine his role as helping "restore America's standing in the world and build more allies and get us to work together again".

    "You can see with the recent success of the North Korea nuclear effort that when America moves from unilateralism to working through and with others it works pretty well," he said.

    US foreign policy - notably the invasion of Iraq - meant the US had "squandered" much widespread global support after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

    "There was a period there after 9/11 when we decided on a go-it-alone, my way or the highway approach, which I think really alienated a lot of the world," Mr Clinton said.

    High profile

    The former president has emerged as a clear asset in his wife's campaign for the White House.

    In a new poll for the Washington Post and ABC News, a majority said they would be comfortable with him as a "first spouse".

    If elected Hillary Clinton would be the first woman president of the United States.

    A campaigner for women's rights, healthcare and job creation, she has a high profile both at home and internationally.

    As a senator from New York she has become a key figure in the congressional Democratic party.

    Mr Clinton also spoke to the Today programme about his new book, Giving: How Each Of Us Can Change the World, in which he urges people to do what they can to change the world for the better, regardless of income, available time, age and skills.

    McCain: Bush Sent Wrong Message After 9/11

    (AP) Republican White House hopeful John McCain said Wednesday that President Bush made a mistake after the Sept. 11 terror attacks by encouraging people to shop rather than urging citizens to join the military or volunteer.

    "I believe that the big mistake that our leadership of our nation made after 9-11 is we told people to go shopping and we told them to take a trip," McCain told students at a military prep school in this early voting state.

    A month after the attacks, Mr. Bush said, "We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don't conduct business or people don't shop."

    People would have joined the military or volunteer groups had the president urged them to do so, McCain said. "I think Americans would have responded overwhelmingly and I believe they still will," he said.

    The Arizona senator made the comments critical of Bush on Wednesday after shelving a prepared speech that was highly critical of Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    McCain said the original text of his speech was similar to an address he'd already made and that his differences with the New York senator remain a "legitimate issue."

    Excerpts of the original speech he was to give at the Camden Military Academy - which were released Tuesday by the McCain campaign - accused Clinton of indecisiveness, arguing that won't work for a post-Sept. 11 commander in chief.

    "The Democratic front-runner wants to have it both ways when it comes to foreign policy. On the one hand, the New York senator voted for the Iraq War. On the other hand, she now opposes it - sort of," the prepared remarks said.

    "On the one hand, she wants a firm deadline for retreat. But, on the other hand, she says we cannot abandon the nation to Iran's designs," the speech said.

    The Clinton campaign said Tuesday the two senators, both members of the Armed Services Committee, "have an honest disagreement on the war."

    "Senator McCain is the Senate's biggest supporter of President Bush's escalation there. Senator Clinton wants to end the war and when she is president she will," Zac Wright, Clinton's South Carolina spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

    McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said McCain's decision to not give the speech Wednesday had to do with the venue. Camden Military Academy is for students grades 7 to 12.

    "It has nothing to do with the content of the speech," Buchanan said. "This isn't the appropriate venue for that."

    Late Tuesday, McCain said he had not yet seen the remarks. "But I will look at them very carefully," he said. <

    Bush Engagement Unites Two Political Clans

    The nation's first family tree is about to gain a new branch. The future in-laws, it turns out, are not unlike the Bushes.

    Henry Hager, 29, who was engaged to Jenna Bush, 25, in August, hails from a world of good breeding and foregone conclusions. His parents, who live in the West End of Richmond, are staples of their society. Like the Bushes, with their prominent forebears and their best schools, the Hagers are a Good Family, in the old sense of the phrase.

    So much about the Hager family reminds you of how things used to be.

    Like many old cities, Richmond has changed -- and it hasn't. Many of the trappings of the Hagers' lives pay homage to the way Richmond once was. Henry's parents, John and Maggie, are regulars on the cocktail party circuit and members of the Country Club of Virginia near their house. Margaret Chase Hager, 66, the product of prep schools and Richmond's debutante culture, was raised by an almost mythic woman who -- as one of Henry Hager's first cousins remembers it -- rode sidesaddle on a white horse she called Lady Godiva, and never wore a pair of pants in her life.

    (Somehow, Good Families always have good legends.)

    John, 71, formerly Virginia's lieutenant governor, has for decades been part of a small group of Republican-leaning business leaders in Richmond who recruit and fund local and state politicians. Statewide, he is the ubiquitous John Hager, known for attending the smallest of gatherings on the chicken dinner circuit (and always writing thank-yous).

    Recently he was elected chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, a position in which his networking and fundraising talents will no doubt come in handy.

    "John knows where the money is," says Mike Salster, Hager's communications director during his 1997 run for lieutenant governor.

    Social anthropologists say that in matters of love, like meets like. Whatever frisson is sparked, there are also subtle evaluations of shoes and manners, of accent and ambition -- and these things become part of the calculus by which human beings can guess at a future together.

    In the case of Jenna and Henry, there is much like in their love. They are both acquainted with the power of family and of politics. In addition to working on his father's campaigns, Henry has worked for Karl Rove and on President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign.

    Henry's immediate family declined to be interviewed for this article, citing the young couple's desire for privacy. During her book tour, which began last week, Jenna has said she doesn't yet know when and where her wedding will take place. She has spoken a little about her "open-minded" and "outdoorsy" fiance, who took her on a cold, early-morning hike up Maine's Cadillac Mountain and asked her to marry him as the sun broke over the horizon.

    He proposed with his great-grandmother's ring, which he had reset.

    We are a nation without nobility, but we have frequent political dynasties, great families that marry great families to produce important American clans. The Adamses, the Roosevelts, the Kennedys, the Bushes.

    In love, as in politics, the name counts for a lot.

    A 'Victorian' Upbringing

    The groom-to-be's parents met through friends at a country club in Richmond.

    It was 1970. She was somebody and he was going places, and they married within six months of their first date.

    Even now, the language people use to describe Maggie Hager comes from another era. They call her "courtly" and a "gentlelady." Maggie had been raised in Richmond and New York. Her mother belonged to the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, and her father was said to be related to former chief justice Salmon P. Chase.

    A family friend, Marie Louise "Pie" Friendly, recalls Maggie and her sister dressed by their mother in organza with satin sashes. They had a German governess and a strict "Victorian" upbringing, Friendly says.

    Richmond during mid-century was "arch-conservative, at least the West End where we grew up," Friendly says. "We didn't know people who went to public school. It was awful -- there was the Country Club of Virginia and that was it."

    John Hager was tall and hardworking. He and his older sister had grown up in Durham, N.C. His mother was involved with the city's Debutante Ball Society, the country club and the garden club, according to her obituary. John's father, like John's uncle and grandfather, was an executive at the now-defunct American Tobacco Co., maker of Pall Malls and Lucky Strikes. After Purdue and an MBA at Harvard, John joined the company, too.

    Then John got the flu, which turned out not to be the flu at all. It was instead a rare case of polio in 1973, contracted from an excessively virulent dose of the vaccine with which his first child, Jack, then an infant, had been inoculated. Even now he uses a wheelchair.

    The company rescinded a promotion he'd just gotten to executive vice president. John stayed on in lesser positions until he retired in 1994.

    With his newfound time, he took an increasing interest in politics. His son Henry would be at his side in his unsuccessful race for governor.

    Quiet Influence

    During an era when the name Trump has become synonymous with money and power, it's easy to forget that you don't need your name on a building or on a bottle of vodka to be influential. And while Trump's standing depends on his wealth and celebrity, there are people whose standing depends on neither, but on who they are, who their people are, and the role they occupy in their community.

    Their influence is of a quieter and more traditional sort, a matter of manners and knowing one's place, of sitting on the right boards and working behind the scenes.

    Most likely you would never hear of these people -- unless they chose to get into politics.

    This is the model for much of the Hagers' influence. They know the other movers and shakers, the other Good Families in Richmond. The Children's Hospital of Richmond, the state Chamber of Commerce and countless other groups outside the political realm have been the lucky recipients of John's prodigious energies. (And he does seem to have more energy than most people.)

    Maggie, meanwhile, was inspired by her husband's polio to serve with numerous groups dealing with the problems of the disabled. Lex Frieden, a disability advocate who served with Maggie on the presidentially appointed National Council on Disability 15 years ago, describes Maggie as supremely "gracious" and seldom critical of anything.

    Obama Calls For Drug Law Changes

    (AP) Democrat Barack Obama said Friday that as president he would relax drug sentencing laws and address vast racial inequities in the justice system as part of his crime policy. The Illinois senator said he would review mandatory minimum drug sentencing and give first-time, nonviolent drug offenders a chance to serve their sentence in drug rehabilitation programs instead of prison. “If you're convicted of a crime involving drugs, of course you should be punished,” Obama said in a speech at Howard University's opening convocation. “But let's not make the punishment for crack cocaine that much more severe than the punishment for powder cocaine when the real difference is where the people are using them or who is using them.” The historically black college awarded Obama an honorary degree.

    Obama framed his speech around the case of a racially charged school beating in Jena, La., that has sparked demonstrations by civil rights advocates. Racial animosity flared about a year ago in the largely white town when a black student sat under a tree that was a traditional gathering place for whites. A day later, three nooses were found hanging from the tree. Reports followed of racial fights at the school, culminating in the a December attack by a group of black students on a white classmate. The black students were arrested while no one was ever held responsible for hanging the noose. “Like Katrina did with poverty, Jena exposed glaring inequities in our justice system that were around long before that schoolyard fight broke out,” Obama said.

    Last week, the State newspaper in South Carolina reported that civil rights activist Jesse Jackson said Obama was “acting like he's white” for not speaking out more forcefully about the incidents in Jena. Jackson later said in a statement that he had been taken out of context. As Obama finished his speech, his campaign announced he would make a four-day “judgment and experience tour” across Iowa next week. The tour was timed for the fifth anniversary of a speech Obama gave in opposition to the Iraq war. It is meant to answer doubts that the first-term senator is ready to be president, a reality that his advisers acknowledge are keeping some voters from signing onto his campaign.

    During his years as an Illinois state legislature, Obama played a lead role on several law enforcement issues, from reforming the death penalty system to studying racial profiling in traffic stops. He brought a decidedly liberal viewpoint but developed a reputation for listening closely to police and Republican lawmakers. For instance, he led negotiations on legislation to require Illinois police to videotape interrogations in death penalty cases as a safeguard against abusing and threatening suspects into false confessions. Police groups had long opposed the idea, but Obama got them on board and the measure passed unanimously. “There's also no reason why we can't pass a racial profiling law like I did in Illinois, or encourage state to reform the death penalty so that innocent people do not end up on death row,” Obama said.

    John Edwards' Learning Curve

    When John Edwards started his second campaign for president, he said the experience of having run for the White House in 2004 gave him one important advantage over others in the 2008 field.

    "One thing that's changed about me is that I spent most of my time last time learning how to be a presidential candidate," he told me almost a year ago. "I didn't know how to do it. I woke up every day worrying about how to be a better candidate than I was yesterday."

    What Edwards absorbed from his first campaign was on display Wednesday night at the Democratic debate at Dartmouth College. More than any of his rivals, Edwards came to the debate with a clear plan for differentiating himself from front-running Hillary Clinton. The result was a debate in which someone other than Clinton turned in the best performance.

    The art of multi-candidate debates is knowing what you need to accomplish and finding opportunities to make that happen. Clinton's goal on Wednesday was to deflect as much as possible the anticipated attacks from her rivals. She managed that through careful and sometimes evasive answers, through calculated laughter whenever the questioning cut too close, and through the command and expertise she has displayed in the past.

    For Edwards, the goal was to force Democratic voters who may be uneasy with the prospect of Clinton as their nominee to think of him more than Barack Obama as the principal alternative, as well as raising doubts about Clinton herself.

    He began somewhat delicately, when moderator Tim Russert asked all the candidates if they would pledge to have all U.S. forces out of Iraq by the end of their first term in January 2013. Edwards, Clinton and Obama all declined to make that promise.

    But Edwards still found a way to draw a contrast with Clinton, arguing that she was prepared to keep U.S. troops in combat indefinitely. He said that, even if some residual forces were needed, he would prohibit their involvement in combat operations. It was a small difference but one designed to make Clinton unpopular with the party's antiwar constituency.

    He was far more direct in criticizing Clinton over a Senate vote on Wednesday on a resolution urging President Bush to label the Iranian Revolution Guard a terrorist organization. Clinton supported the measure (in contrast to rivals Joe Biden and Chris Dodd) and Edwards took her to task by looping back to her support for the 2002 resolution authorizing Bush to go to war in Iraq.

    Edwards also voted for that resolution, but has renounced it in a way Clinton steadfastly has refused to do. He was caustic in asserting that he and Clinton had learned "a very different lesson" from that experience. "What I learned in my vote on Iraq," he said, "was you cannot give this president the authority and you can't even give him the first step in that authority because he cannot be trusted."

    Edwards learned another valuable lesson from his 2004 experience, which is not to allow the conventional wisdom of the moment to overwhelm your candidacy. Time and again in the fall of 2003 he was counted out. He started as the bright, fresh hope for the party, then saw Howard Dean roar past him (and everyone else) on the strength of the antiwar movement. He languished in single digits in the polls so long that it appeared he had little chance of becoming a factor in the race.

    Then when it counted, he came alive--with help from an endorsement by the Des Moines Register shortly before the Iowa caucuses. He was moving so quickly in the final days of the Iowa campaign that Kerry's team feared he might overtake them and win.

    So Edwards has a healthy appreciation for what counts and what doesn't in the sound and fury of the 24/7 news cycle and the constant chatter and instant analysis of the web and cable news. His advisers believe Obama has obstacles that he will never be able to overcome -- principally the question of whether he has the right experience to be president -- and are therefore confident that by the middle of January, the Democratic race will be a two-way contest with Clinton.

    Before the race gets to that point, Edwards may face his own time of testing. He was grilled Wednesday by Russert about his involvement with a hedge fund that has been involved in foreclosures against some New Orleans residents. He stood his ground, but the experience is one that may unsettle Democratic voters.

    His detractors also question whether he is driven by more than a desire to be president. His positions have moved left over the past four years, on the war, on health care and on other issues. Can he retain the kind of support he has enjoyed in a state like Iowa among moderate male voters with a platform that is increasingly pitched to the left?

    Finally, while he remains well positioned in Iowa, his prospects in New Hampshire are far less bright. His advisers believe that, if he wins Iowa, he can survive with a second-place finish in New Hampshire. They confidently predict he can wrap up the nomination in January by becoming the giant killer in Iowa and riding that altered dynamic to victory.

    Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns strongly disagree with the assessment inside the Edwards campaign, and there are good reasons to be skeptical about how the Raleigh-based team has sketched out the future. Even some Democrats who were once partial to Edwards question the decisions that he, his wife Elizabeth and their team have made this year.

    This bothers Edwards not at all. The confidence gained from running and losing in 2004 has permeated his 2008 campaign. Now he must persuade Democratic voters to put their confidence in him.

    Can Clinton Be Stopped?

    The Hillary Clinton who appeared on five Sunday morning shows was a formidable political candidate: poised, polished, knowledgeable. The package she presented was designed to send a message to her Democratic rivals: catch me if you can.

    She now sits atop the Democratic field, in a tier by herself. She has achieved that by performing at a consistently high level in debates and on the campaign trail, along with help from a campaign that has been largely free of major mistakes. She showed Sunday she could stand in against some of the best pitching in political journalism.

    Clinton's goal has been to surround her candidacy with an aura of inevitability, which is certainly common among front-runners. The more she can do that, the more she puts the focus on whether her rivals have a strategy to stop her. The more she does that, the less focus there will be on questions pertinent to what kind of general election candidate or president she actually might be.

    The rush to anoint Clinton as an inevitable nominee overlooks the history of nomination battles, which is that few candidate win these contests without a struggle or without at least one serious setback or stumble -- either self-inflicted or inflicted by the voters. What happens before the voters are heard from is not unimportant, but it is rarely decisive.

    What could trip up Clinton? Many things: a scandal, a mistake or an unexpected event -- although mistakes seem the least likely given what has transpired to date. The most likely is a defeat and that certainly appears most possible in Iowa. A Clinton loss in Iowa would instantly change perceptions of the Democratic race and bring new scrutiny to Clinton's candidacy that may be overlooked right now.

    Iowa is the outlier in the polls at this point in the campaign. Clinton holds a sizeable lead in national polls, and she has, on average, double-digit leads in the other early states. But in Iowa, the polls show a three-way contest that also includes Barack Obama and John Edwards -- and what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire will affect all the other states.

    Iowa's electorate is notoriously picky about its choices. The voters there demand considerable attention and, even when they get it from the candidates, wait until the last minute to make up their minds. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin believes more than half the likely Democratic caucus voters have not settled on a candidate. Advisers to the leading candidates say the percentage may be even higher than that. No matter what the polls show elsewhere, Iowa is a real battleground.

    An Obama victory in Iowa would deal a serious -- though not fatal -- setback to Clinton. Although Clinton has a lead in New Hampshire today, Obama has a potentially receptive electorate in New Hampshire because of the sizeable number of independents who are likely to vote in the Democratic primary. If Obama were to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton then would be in deep trouble.

    An Edwards victory over Clinton in Iowa would present a potential obstacle to her nomination, but perhaps not one as significant as if Obama were to win Iowa. That's because Edwards did not do well in New Hampshire in 2004 and has struggled there this year. Knowing that, he and Elizabeth Edwards have been investing more time and resources in New Hampshire, but no one can say with any confidence whether it could pay off if he wins Iowa.

    Clinton is acting as if her whole campaign depends on Iowa -- and it may. She has rebuilt her ground operation there. She has used Iowa as the venue for major speeches on Iraq and health care to position herself favorably for the Democratic electorate. Twice now she has brought in her husband to campaign across the state with her. She and her advisers believe a victory there could secure her nomination. They also know that a loss there would scramble what has so far been generally smooth march forward.

    What happens next depends in part on her opponents. She and the other Democrats will assemble in New Hampshire for a two-hour debate on Wednesday night (9-11 p.m. on MSNBC), moderated by NBC's Tim Russert. That event likely will reveal how they intend to try to stop her.

    Obama may be forced onto the attack, if only to shake up a race that has been largely unchanged for months. Or he may try to avoid direct confrontation awhile longer, hoping that Edwards assumes that role immediately. Last week's debate in Iowa also found Joe Biden and Chris Dodd willing to challenge Clinton on the key question of whether she is the strongest Democratic standard-bearer in the general election and the kind of politician who could accomplish big things as president.

    At some point, the voters will face up to those questions more directly than that have. Whether that will be during the primaries or, if Clinton is the nominee, after she has effectively wrapped up the nomination, depends in part on what the New York senator's opponents decide. But after the week she just wrapped up -- her most dominating week of the campaign to day -- her rivals must be ever more aware of the consequences of not doing so.

    Hillary Clinton: Front-Runner And Target

    (AP) Hillary Rodham Clinton is finding herself in her rivals' cross-hairs.

    Barack Obama and John Edwards try to paint her as a candidate of the Washington establishment and beholden to special interests. Chris Dodd questioned the former first lady's competence on health care reform. They have hinted she's too divisive to govern effectively as president.

    The shift in tone was perhaps inevitable, coming nine months into a largely cordial primary campaign that has left the New York senator the undisputed front-runner for the Democratic nomination. In criticizing Clinton, they acknowledge she's a formidable candidate and accept that she's unlikely to stumble badly to give others an opening.

    "Her opponents are starting to worry that she is consolidating her position, and that's potentially fatal for them," said Raphael Sonenshein, a political science professor at California State University, Fullerton. "A lot of people watching her campaign are surprised by the fact that it's strengthening and could be starting to break away."

    The new dynamic is also a clear expression of frustration by Clinton's rivals, who were forced to the sidelines this week when she released her new health care plan. The rollout drew extensive media coverage.

    Republicans are criticizing Clinton as though she's already the Democratic nominee. Rudy Giuliani has relied on newspaper and Web ads to assail her on the Iraq war.

    To remain in the game, Democrats are starting to point out Clinton's potential vulnerabilities and question her electability.

    At a seniors' forum in Iowa on Thursday, rival Joe Biden suggested congressional Republicans would refuse to work with Clinton to accomplish health care reform.

    "Let's be frank about this," Biden said. "What's changed to make you think Hillary is going to be able to put together the 15 percent of Republicans" who will be needed to enact any overhaul of the health care system?

    In an interview with The Associated Press, Dodd said Clinton had mismanaged her effort to reshape the nation's health care system during her husband's presidency and questioned why she touted that experience as evidence she should be allowed to try again.

    Biden and Dodd are both polling in single digits and have had little impact on the overall dynamic of the field. But their criticisms come amid new efforts by Clinton's lead rivals, Obama and Edwards, to portray her as part of the status quo.

    Edwards has been particularly aggressive, claiming Clinton lifted his health care plan and criticizing her ties to lobbyists and other special interests.

    His top campaign strategist, Joe Trippi, even sent an e-mail to supporters this week blasting her for attending a fundraising lunch with lobbyists. Clinton, he wrote, is the "poster child" for what's wrong in Washington.

    Obama faces his own set of risks and complications. He has pledged to run a positive campaign without the personal attacks or negativity that would cast him as a "conventional" politician. That pledge has come with a downside: Clinton strategists pounce each time Obama utters any sort of critique.

    So in a new television ad campaign released this week, Obama tiptoes around Clinton's vulnerabilities without addressing them head on.

    In an ad about health care, he laments the "bickering" that defined past attempts to reform the system. "For the last 20 years, Washington has talked about health care reform but reformed nothing," he says.

    Is he talking about Clinton? Obama doesn't say.

    And without naming names, Obama's new campaign speech includes a warning about a return to political polarization.

    "George Bush and Dick Cheney may have turned divisive, special interest politics into an art form, but it was there before they got to Washington," he said.

    For her part, Clinton hasn't taken the bait and has largely ignored the potshots from fellow Democrats.

    "Voters can see through politically motivated attacks," said her spokesman Howard Wolfson. "Other candidates are clearly frustrated with their falling poll numbers."

    Clinton is already training her sights on the GOP. She referred to Cheney this week as Darth Vader, and a top Clinton campaign adviser, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, said Giuliani's rocky personal life would be fair game in a general election.

    But longtime Democratic strategist Erik Smith said that despite Clinton's clear strengths, there was still opportunity for her rivals to make headway. Their critiques could have particular resonance in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where voters are closely following the contest, he said.

    "If you are running behind a front-runner, you have to do something to change the dynamics of the race," Smith said. "You really have no choice - you can't rest on your laurels and hopes that she trips."

    Edwards Calls For Universal Preschool

    (AP) Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards rolled out a program for reforming primary education in the United States on Friday, proposing to pay teachers up to $15,000 more in high poverty areas and initiating universal preschool.

    Edwards was to detail the proposals, which also include longer school years and reforming No Child Left Behind, later in the day in a speech at a Des Moines middle school.

    In a copy of his policy statement provided to The Associated Press, Edwards said giving all children an equal chance to get a quality education is a commitment that is at the core of his plan to build a country "where everyone has a chance to succeed."

    He said schools are still separate and unequal 50 years after a Supreme Court ruling required desegregation in public schools.

    "No longer legally separated by race, our children are sorted by economics, often with a racial or ethnic dimension. At the same time, our children are preparing for unprecedented global economic competition," Edwards said in the policy statement.

    He criticized the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind law, saying it's not working and needs a radical overhaul.

    Rather than requiring students to take cheap standardized tests, Edwards said assessments that measure higher-order thinking skills must be developed, including open-ended essays, oral examinations, projects and experiments.

    Edwards' plan calls for federal funding for the creation of universal preschool for all children when they turn 4. The preschools will teach skills students will need in school, including language abilities and introductions to early math, reading and other academic concepts.

    The program, which will be voluntary, will begin in low-income neighborhoods where schools are struggling. Tuition would be charged on a sliding scale based on family income and waived for children from low-income families.

    Edwards also proposed creation of a national program to promote health screening for problems related to speech, hearing, vision, dental and learning disabilities. The program would promote home visits by nurses to 50,000 low-income new parents.

    Richardson: Withdraw All Troops From Iraq

    (AP) Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson on Wednesday called for the U.S. to end the war in Iraq, arguing that the troops exacerbate the sectarian violence and the billions spent could be used for health care and other needs. “We're a nation that spends $5.5 billion in cancer research - that's two weeks of the Iraq war,” Richardson told The Associated Press. “It shows the misguided priorities.” “We are being bled dry by an invasion that is costing us $500 billion so far - $500 billion,” he said, stressing the cost. “And it's detracting from American security objectives in dealing with terrorism, with nuclear proliferation, with energy independence.”

    In an hourlong interview with AP editors and reporters, the New Mexico governor argued that all combat and non-combat troops should be removed from Iraq because their presence is only contributing to violence instead of bringing security. “There's no question there's tribal and ethnic hatreds,” Richardson told The Associated Press. “But when those tribal and ethnic hatreds are fueled by American policy of hostility, then you make the situation worse.” Richardson criticized Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards - his leading rivals for the presidential nomination - for plans to pull out combat troops from Iraq but leave residual forces behind. He said he would keep the Marines that guard the U.S. embassy in Baghdad but would withdraw all other military personnel.

    “Who is going to take care of non-combat troops? The Iraqis?” Richardson asked. He said he would move a small contingent mostly of special forces to Kuwait and more troops into Afghanistan, although he would leave the specific number up to military leaders. He said he has asked his rivals to describe exactly how many troops they would leave and for how long in two previous debates but seemed frustrated that he hasn't gotten an answer. “It's as if I'm talking to myself,” he said.

    Edwards Camp Slams Clinton Over Fundraiser

    (AP) In its most direct attack on Hillary Rodham Clinton, the campaign of Democratic presidential contender John Edwards on Tuesday denounced a fundraising luncheon that included sessions for Clinton donors with members of Congress who have expertise in homeland security.

    Today's Clinton fundraising event is a 'poster child' for what is wrong with Washington and what should never happen again with a candidate running for the highest office in the land,・Edwards' senior adviser Joe Trippi said in a letter to supporters.

    Edwards and Barack Obama have declined money from individuals who lobby the federal government and have tried to portray Clinton, who does accept lobbyists' money, as beholden to special interests. Obama and Edwards do accept money from corporate executives whose industries have interests in government policies.

    In response, Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said, increasingly negative attacks against other Democrats aren't going to end the war, deliver universal health care or turn John Edwards' flagging campaign around.・

    The Clinton fundraiser was held Tuesday in the Washington offices of Jones Day, a global law firm with more than 2,200 lawyers in 30 offices worldwide.

    Among those scheduled to attend were House members who are backing Clinton and sit on the House Homeland Security Committee, including Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jane Harman of California, Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, James Langevin of Rhode Island and Nita Lowey of New York.

    Some of the luncheon chairs and members of the host committee have been lobbyists for a wide range of business interests.

    According to the invitation, the luncheon would be followed by issues breakout sessions. Donors attending the luncheon had to pay $1,000 or $2,300.

    Trippi's broadside came a day after Edwards argued that while Clinton's new health care plan is similar to his, she would be unable to reform the health system because she accepts lobbyists' contributions.

    "I don't believe you can sit down with lobbyists, take their money and cut a deal,"Edwards said Monday in a speech to a union conference in Chicago. The only way to bring real health care reform is to end the Washington influence game and end it once and for all.・

    Democrats Descend On Iowa

    (CBS/AP) Six Democratic presidential candidates took aim at President Bush as they made their case Sunday to thousands of activists scattered across an Iowa field.

    "Everybody is sick and tired of being sick and tired of George Bush," said Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. "All you have to do is take a look at the president pretending that going around in circles was making progress. If that doesn't get you ready to get rid of George Bush I don't know what will."

    The six candidates paraded after each other in a carnival-like atmosphere in a field about 20 miles south of Des Moines. An estimated 12,000 activists streamed in for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry, shelling out $30 each in a fundraiser for a veteran Democrat senator who doesn't face serious opposition in next year's election.

    The presence of every serious Democratic contender demonstrates just how much Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus next January is dominating the current contest, reports CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield.

    John Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton joined with Harkin to grill some steaks before a giant bank of television cameras. "I've done this before," Edwards said as he flipped a steak.

    Clinton, the New York senator, called on Bush to bring the troops home from Iraq, declaring, "The era of cowboy diplomacy is over."

    "They deserve to come home because there is no military solution," said Clinton. "Unfortunately, both the Iraqi government and the Bush administration have failed."

    Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: "George Bush made it clear - he will not end the war in Iraq. If there was ever any doubt, now there is none. One of us on this stage will have to stop the war he started."

    Obama said he would not vote for any war-funding measure that doesn't include a timeline for bringing troops home.

    "We must recognize that until we end the divisive politics this war has spawned, we will be unable to build a consensus here at home to accomplish all the goals we share," Obama said.

    New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said: "I would end the war in Iraq and I would bring all the troops out of Iraq. No residual forces. My position is clear: we bring the troops out within six to eight months. The war cannot end with leaving troops behind."

    A few other issues popped up during the event. Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd pointed to his call for expanded health coverage. "It is shameful that today, 50 million people in America have no health care," he said. That will change and must change if we care about the future of our country."

    Clinton is scheduled to announce her plan for universal health care on Monday. Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, took at shot at her refusal to give up campaign money from health interest groups. "If they get a seat at the table, they'll eat all the food and there will be nothing left for the rest of America," he said.

    War Of Anti-War, Pro-War Protesters

    (CBS/AP) Tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators marched through downtown Washington on Saturday, clashing with police at the foot of the Capitol steps where at least 160 protesters were arrested.

    The group marched from the White House to the Capitol to demand an end to the Iraq war. Their numbers stretched for blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue, and they held banners and signs and chanted, What do we want? Troops out. When do we want it? Now.・

    Army veteran Justin Cliburn, 25, of Lawton, Okla., was among a contingent of Iraq veterans in attendance.

    We're occupying a people who do not want us there,・Cliburn said of Iraq. We're here to show that it isn't just a bunch of old hippies from the 60s who are against this war.・

    CBS News Correspondent Dan Raviv reports that counterprotest groups, including a contingent of Vietnam veterans called Gathering of Eagles who support the war in Iraq, lined Pennsylvania Avenue and had a verbal battle of chants and slogans.

    The arrests came after protesters lay down on the Capitol lawn in what they called a tie in- with signs on top of their bodies to represent soldiers killed in Iraq. When police took no action, some of the protesters started climbing over a barricade at the foot of the Capitol steps.

    Many were arrested without a struggle after they jumped over the waist-high barrier. But some grew angry as police with shields and riot gear attempted to push them back. At least two people were showered with chemical spray. Protesters responded by throwing signs and chanting: shame on you.・

    The number of arrests by Capitol Police on Saturday was much higher than previous anti-war rallies in Washington this year. Five people were arrested at a protest outside the Pentagon in March when they walked onto a bridge that had been closed off to accommodate the demonstration, then refused to leave. And at a rally in January, about 50 demonstrators blocked a street near the Capitol, but they were dispersed without arrests.

    The protesters gathered earlier Saturday near the White House in Lafayette Park with signs saying end the war now・and calling for President Bush's impeachment. The rally was organized by the ANSWER Coalition and other groups.

    Organizers estimated that more than 100,000 people attended the rally and march. That number could not be confirmed; police did not give their own estimate. But there appeared to be tens of thousands of people in attendance.

    Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan told the crowd is was time to be assertive.

    的t's time to lay our bodies on the line and say we've had enough,・she said. 的t's time to shut this city down.・

    About 13 blocks away, nearly 1,000 counterprotesters gathered near the Washington Monument, frequently erupting in chants of U-S-Aand waving American flags.

    Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Patterson, speaking from a stage to crowds clad in camouflage, American flag bandanas and Harley Davidson jackets, said he wanted to send three messages.

    Pure Horserace: A Two-Minute Warning?

    (CBS) We've seen plenty of ads already in the presidential election cycle, but tonight brings us the first example of a candidate purchasing a semi-sizable block of airtime tied to a specific event. John Edwards will provide his own two-minute response ad to President Bush7s address to the nation on MSNBC.

    According to early reports, Edwards will use the occasion to once again try and apply pressure to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama over the war in Iraq. While all the Democratic candidates are calling for an end to the war, the former senator has been trying to position himself as the most anti-war candidate from the start of the campaign. Tonight, he will call on Congress (read, Clinton and Obama) to force the president to end the war.

    Of course, two members alone can't cut off funding or force the administration to set up a timetable for withdrawal and Democrats in the Senate have yet to find enough Republicans for a veto-proof majority on those issues. But many party activists have grown restless with their leadership and it is that sentiment Edwards is aiming at.

    "Well Congress you know the truth," Edwards will say in the ad, according to the Associated Press. "They have the power to end this war and you expect them to use it. When the president asks for more money and more time, Congress needs to tell him he only gets one choice - a firm timeline for withdrawal.・

    The ad will air on MSNBC, where Keith Olbermann has gained a progressive following with his commentaries castigating the president on Iraq. And the campaign is tying it to a fund-raising pitch. On Edwards Web site, an appeal reads, buying this kind of airtime is expensive, but we believe that President Bush's address must be countered with a strong voice in opposition to the failed policies that have kept our troops in harm's way for far too long.・

    Obama Calls For Immediate Troop Pullback

    Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., questions Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker

    (AP) Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is calling for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. combat brigades from Iraq, with the pullout being completed by the end of next year.

    "Let me be clear: There is no military solution in Iraq and there never was," Obama said in excerpts of the speech provided to The Associated Press.

    "The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq's leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year — now," the Illinois senator says.

    Obama's ardent opposition to the war has been a central theme of his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he has used it to distinguish himself from leading rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. She voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq in 2002; Obama was not yet a senator.

    Obama was trying to further sharpen that distinction Wednesday, spelling out his views on what the U.S. should do next.

    He introduced legislation last January calling for withdrawal to start on May 1 and for all combat brigades to be pulled out by March 31, 2008. Anti-war Democrats and some Republicans want to bring all combat troops home in a matter of months.

    Obama's push for withdrawal drew a sharp rebuke from Republican rival Mitt Romney.

    "I think Barack Obama has disqualified himself for presidential leadership," Romney said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "If we take the kind of left turn represented by Barack Obama and his flee-in-the-face-of-success strategy, we'd be in a very different position as a nation."

    In a letter to Bush on Wednesday, Clinton urged him to bring troops home faster and not to use his prime-time speech Thursday to declare new successes in Iraq. She said Bush's planned announcement of a reduction of 30,000 troops would have happened any way when the troops would have had to come home at the end of their 15-month deployment.

    "He is in essence is going to tell the American people that one year from now the number of troops in Iraq will be the same as there were one year ago," she said after picking up the endorsement of the National Association of Letter Carriers. "Taking credit for this troop reduction is like taking credit for the sun coming up in the morning."

    In criticizing the administration's current strategy, Clinton also linked the president's anticipated speech to the one he gave more than four years ago on an aircraft carrier under a banner that read "Mission accomplished."

    "Mr. President, we don't need another mission accomplished moment," she said. "What we need is honesty and candor."

    Obama's speech comes a day after Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker updated Congress on the situation in the war zone during two days of testimony on Capitol Hill.

    Petraeus recommended that a 2,000-member Marine unit come home this month and not be replaced. That would be followed in mid-December by the departure of an Army brigade of 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers. An additional four combat brigades would be withdrawn by July 2008.

    Obama said the U.S. and the Iraqi government should discuss how to go about withdrawing troops.

    "We must get out strategically and carefully, removing troops from secure areas first and keeping troops in more volatile areas until later," Obama said in prepared remarks. Key excerpts were obtained by The Associated Press.

    Although he stopped short of calling for an immediate pullout of all troops, Obama said there should be a clear and certain timetable.

    "But our drawdown should proceed at a steady pace of one or two brigades each month," he said. "If we start now, all of our combat brigades should be out of Iraq by the end of next year."

    By arguing that only combat brigades should be withdrawn — there are 20 in Iraq, including five President Bush sent January — Obama appeared to suggest that other U.S. troops could remain.

    Underscoring the importance he was putting on the speech, Obama was being introduced by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Carter from 1977 to 1981. Brzezinski has endorsed Obama's bid, and Wednesday's appearance would be his first on the candidate's behalf.

    Obama rejected Petraeus' recommendation to maintain current troop levels through next summer to ensure security gains are maintained.

    "The president would have us believe there are two choices: keep all of our troops in Iraq or abandon these Iraqis," Obama said. "I reject this choice."

    Instead, he argued for creating an international working group of countries in the region and in Asia and Europe that would work to stabilize Iraq.

    Democratic rival Chris Dodd criticized Obama and Clinton, contending that they were backtracking on "the need for a firm, enforceable deadline" on redeploying U.S. forces. Dodd said Obama "has a gift for soaring rhetoric, but, on this critical issue, we need to know the substance of his position with specificity."

    Petraeus Presents Conundrum For Dems

    This week's progress report from General David Petraeus marked an opportunity of sorts for both sides in the debate over the war. Congressional Democrats, having been unable to win a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq, saw Petraeus' report as an opportunity to win over moderate Republicans and begin a process to wind down the four-year war.

    The White House and its allies, meanwhile, saw the report as a chance to bolster their claim that progress was being made in Iraq. They portrayed America's top general in Iraq as an impartial and highly reputable source on the Iraq war; in a press conference on Aug. 1, spokesman Tony Snow, who has denied that the White House has seen or shaped the general's testimony, called Petraeus "a serious guy who sees his mission not as a political mission, but, in fact, as somebody who reports facts."

    After Petraeus, as expected, delivered testimony largely in line with White House rhetoric, Democrats had to be careful to raise questions about the message without directly disparaging the messenger -- in this case a general whom they have praised in the past. A full-page ad in Monday's New York Times, purchased by Political Action, complicated that task. In the ad, the anti-war group used the phrase "General Betray Us" and suggested that Petraeus is "cooking the books for the White House."

    Republicans, both in the House committee room where Petraeus was testifying and on the presidential campaign trial, quickly seized upon the ad: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called it an "outrageous ... attempt to call into question the reputation and character of General Petraeus," while Arizona Sen. John McCain characterized it as "a McCarthyite attack on an American patriot."

    Numerous Republicans called on Democrats to repudiate what Snow called "a boorish, unworthy, childish attack." Immediately before Petraeus' testimony, Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen suggested, in a comment carried on the cable news channels, that Democrats may have coordinated the attack with MoveOn.

    According to one Democratic Senate aide, the ad complicated matters for "Democratic members of House and Senate that are here trying to do their job and really have problems with Petraeus' report but don't have problems with Petraeus personally."

    Nita Chaudhary, a spokesman for MoveOn, said that there was no coordination between Democrats and their organization concerning the ad. "The intent of the ad is to get out there in advance of the White House spin," said Chaudhary. "It's unfortunate that the Republicans are focusing on the ad rather than the facts on the ground."

    The dustup stoplights a potential problem for Democratic presidential candidates: The tension between those members of their party who want an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and those who, for personal or political reasons, do not advocate that course. During yesterday's House hearings, several protesters, among them Cindy Sheehan and members of anti-war group Code Pink, repeatedly interrupted speakers with calls for an immediate end to the war.

    "There are parts of the Democrats' base that are absolutely committed to the idea that this war has got to stop and believe that Democrats who do not oppose the war and are not calling for pullout are not worthy of support," said CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield.

    But the party's presidential candidates have cautioned that an immediate and complete withdrawal is unrealistic. Democrats, who hold a narrow majority in the Senate, have been unable to garner the votes necessary to force a change in the administration's policy. And the complexity of withdrawal has forced most of the top-tier candidates to acknowledge that some level of troops will likely be needed in Iraq for some time to come.

    In a debate last month, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton called withdrawal "a massive, complicated undertaking." And Illinois Sen. Barack Obama added, "There are only bad options and worse options, and we're going to have to exercise judgment in terms of how we execute this."

    Whether or not the presidential candidates can manage to sufficiently satisfy anti-war activists, Democrats see benefits in talking about the war.

    "A lot of Democratic members of the House and Senate distanced themselves from what they regarded as a personal attack on Petraeus," Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said in reference to the MoveOn ad. "But at the end of the day, the real issue is still the real issue. Bush and Petraeus are saying they want an open ended commitment of 120,000, 130,000 troops into the indefinite future, and that is a policy that most Americans oppose. Americans want a timetable for withdrawal. What Democrats are saying is we need to change course. That's the fundamental difference."

    Iraq Debate Flares Before Petraeus Report

    (CBS/AP) President George W. Bush's war strategy is failing and the top military commander in Iraq is "dead flat wrong" for warning against major changes, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday.

    Ahead of Monday's crucial testimony by Bush's leading military and political advisers on Iraq, Sen. Joseph Biden indicated that he and other Democrats would persist in efforts to set target dates for bringing troops home.

    "The reality is that although there's been some mild security progress, there is in fact no security in Baghdad or Anbar province where I was dealing with the most serious problem, sectarian violence," said Biden, a 2008 presidential candidate who recently returned from Iraq.

    Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were scheduled to testify before four congressional committees, including Biden's, on Monday and Tuesday. Lawmakers will hear how the commander and the diplomat assess progress in Iraq and their recommendations about the course of war strategy.

    Officials familiar with their thinking told The Associated Press over the weekend that the advisers would urge Congress not to make significant changes. Their report will note that while national political progress has been disappointing, security gains in local areas have shown promise, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal deliberations.

    Petraeus and Crocker will say the buildup of 30,000 troops, which brings the current U.S. total in Iraq to nearly 170,000, is working better than any previous effort to quell the insurgency and restore stability. The officials also disputed suggestions that Petraeus and Crocker would recommend anything more than a symbolic reduction in troop levels and then only in the spring.

    The testimony sets the stage for a nationally televised speech by Bush later in the week about how he will proceed.

    There is widespread public unhappiness and growing congressional discomfort with the war. But, a new CBS News/New York Times poll suggests the "surge" strategy may be gaining support among the American people.

    The poll finds 35 percent say the surge has made things better, up from 29 percent last month and 19 percent in July. Only 12 percent say it has made things worse, but nearly half see no change in either direction, according to the poll.

    CBS Poll: More Think The 'Surge' Is Helping

    Biden, signaling that tough questioning awaits the pair from majority Democrats and moderate Republicans, said Petraeus' assessment missed the point. The Delaware Democrat said focusing on a political solution, such as by creating more local control, was the only way to foster national reconciliation among warring factions.

    "I really respect him, but I think he's dead flat wrong," Biden said.

    Biden contended that Bush's main strategy was to buy time and extend the troop presence in Iraq long enough to push the burden onto the next president, who takes office in January 2009, to fix the sectarian strife.

    "This president has no plan - how to win and how to leave," Biden said.

    Stressing that a political solution was the key, he said, "I will insist on a firm beginning to withdraw the troops and I will insist on a target date to get American combat forces out," except for those necessary to protect U.S. civilians and fight al Qaeda.

    Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, agreed. "The problem is, if you don't have a deadline and you don't require something of the Iraqis, they're simply going to use our presence as cover for their willingness to delay, which is what they have done month after month after month," he said.

    "I think the general will present the facts with respect to the statistics and the tactical successes or situations as he sees them," the Massachusetts Democrat said. "But none of us should be fooled - not the American people, not you in the media, not us in Congress - we should not be fooled into this tactical success debate."

    On Face The Nation, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said the Bush administration is leaving the ultimate decision on whether to keep troops in Iraq to the next president.

    "It's clear that ... this administration is trying to delay the ultimate judgment till the next president gets into office, that's what this president has said, and then let them take the burden on it," Kennedy told Bob Schieffer.

    Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, said he respects the judgment of Petraeus but will not blindly follow his assessment.

    "We're going to look behind the generalizations that General Petraeus or anybody gives us and probe the very hard facts to see exactly what the situation is," Specter said. "As I've said in the past, unless we see some light at the end of the tunnel here, very closely examining what General Petraeus and others have to say, I think there's a general sense that there needs to be a new policy."

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said it would be foolish for Congress to try and second-guess commanders on the ground.

    In the end, Graham said, the U.S. cannot afford to withdraw prematurely if it is military unwise and risks plunging the region into more chaos.

    "If the general tells me down the road we can withdraw troops because of military success, we should all celebrate it," Graham said. "But if politicians in Washington pick an arbitrary date, an arbitrary number to withdraw, it's not going to push Baghdad politicians.

    "It's going to re-energize an enemy that's on the mat," he said.

    Unions Press Clinton on Outsourcing

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, with Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh

    When Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton flew to New Delhi to meet with Indian business leaders in 2005, she offered a blunt assessment of the loss of American jobs across the Pacific. "There is no way to legislate against reality," she declared. "Outsourcing will continue. ... We are not against all outsourcing; we are not in favor of putting up fences."

    Two years later, as a Democratic presidential hopeful, Clinton struck a different tone when she told students in New Hampshire that she hated "seeing U.S. telemarketing jobs done in remote locations far, far from our shores."

    The two speeches delivered continents apart highlight the delicate balance the senator from New York, a dedicated free-trader, is seeking to maintain as she courts two competing constituencies: wealthy Indian immigrants who have pledged to donate and raise as much as $5 million for her 2008 campaign, and powerful American labor unions that are crucial to any Democratic primary victory.

    Despite aggressive courtship by Democratic candidates, major unions such as the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union have withheld their endorsements as they scrutinize the candidates' records and solicit views on a variety of issues.

    High on the agenda of union officials is an explanation of how each candidate will try to stem the loss of U.S. jobs, including large numbers in the service and technology sectors that are being taken over by cheap labor in India. During the vetting, some union leaders have found Clinton's record troubling.

    "The India issue is still something people are concerned about. Her financial relationships, her quotes - they have both gotten attention," said Thea M. Lee, policy director for the AFL-CIO.

    Facing a cool reception, Clinton and her advisers have used closed-door meetings with labor leaders in recent months to explain her past ties to Indian companies, donors and policies. Aides have highlighted her efforts to retrain displaced workers and to end offshore tax breaks that reward companies that outsource jobs.

    But the Clinton camp has been pressed by labor leaders on her support for expanding temporary U.S. work visas that often go to Indians who get jobs in the United States, and it has been queried about the help she gave a major Indian company to gain a foothold in New York State. That company now outsources most of its work to India.

    "They're obviously defensive about it," observed Lee, who has taken part in such meetings.

    Clinton declined repeated requests for an interview about her views on outsourcing. Her campaign advisers, however, say she believes there are no inconsistencies in the comments she has made here and in India or in her actions as a senator.

    They say she opposes legislative measures - such as trade barriers - to slow the loss of American jobs if they would restrain free trade. And they say she has supported the expansion of the temporary-worker visas because U.S. technology companies have repeatedly told her the visas are needed to maintain a ready workforce.

    At the same time, they say, she has worked hard to secure money to assist workers who have lost jobs to outsourcing and wants to retrain the American workforce to compete better in the global marketplace.

    Clinton "believes that we must make sure that we are not allowing other countries to take advantage of American workers and that we do not have policies in place that actually promote outsourcing of American jobs," spokesman Philippe Reines said.

    Her rivals for the Democratic nomination have monitored her every comment on the issue. Last year, the India Abroad newspaper reported that she joked to a group of Indian American donors that she could easily win a Senate seat if she were running in the Indian state of Punjab. An aide to her chief foe in the Democratic contest, Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., parodied those remarks in a document distributed to reporters; it listed her political affiliation as "D-Punjab."

    At a recent event in Los Angeles, host Nadadur Vardhan told those gathered that they should support Clinton because "she may shift more jobs to India," according to an Indian news account. Asked about the remarks, Vardhan told The Washington Post: "That's not our goal. Our goal is to support her because she is best for this country."

    Obama and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who trail Clinton in the polls, have sought to attack her record on outsourcing while arguing that they support more direct government intervention to protect U.S. jobs.

    Clinton's camp counters that Obama and Edwards have acknowledged that some loss of American jobs is inevitable in a global economy. Edwards, for example, told a New Delhi conference in 2005 that outsourcing was "an economic reality" and "America must act to ensure that it stays strong and adapts ... to ensure that the American people are better prepared to meet the challenges of the new world." And Obama said just two months ago: "We know that we can't put the forces of globalization back in the bottle. We cannot bring back every job that's been lost."

    When Clinton told a union-sponsored debate last month that the nation needed a "better approach" to globalization and trade, Edwards railed against the North American Free Trade Agreement that President Bill Clinton's administration signed in 1993, saying it compromised "millions of jobs." Obama chimed in that "people don't want a cheaper T-shirt if it's costing us jobs."

    Obama Touts Change Over Experience

    Barack Obama, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials

    "There are those who tout their experience working the system in Washington. But the problem is the system in Washington isn't working for us, and it hasn't been for a very long time."

    Democrat Barack Obama on Monday sharpened his critique of lead rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, warning against a return to "divisive, special interest politics" that had demoralized the country even before President Bush took office.

    "As bad as this administration has been, it's going to take more than just a change in parties to truly turn this country around," Obama told supporters at a Labor Day rally.

    "George Bush and Dick Cheney may have turned divisive, special interest politics into an art form, but it was there before they got to Washington. If you and I don't stand up to challenge it, it will be there long after we leave."

    It was the latest volley in the "change versus experience" debate that has dominated the dialogue between Clinton and her top rivals in recent weeks. On Sunday, Clinton unveiled a new campaign speech where she argued that only a president experienced in the ways of Washington could bring about real political transformation.

    Without mentioning Clinton by name, Obama struck back hard at that argument.

    "There are those who tout their experience working the system in Washington," Obama said. "But the problem is the system in Washington isn't working for us, and it hasn't been for a very long time."

    Obama, who has spent much of the campaign answering questions of whether he is experienced enough to be president, ticked through his years as a community organizer and consensus builder in the Illinois legislature and now in the Senate. But he also sought to frame his hope-driven message as an antidote to the cynicism of political insiders.

    "A lot of people who've been in Washington a lot longer than me, they've got better connections, they go(to the)right dinner parties, they know how to talk the Washington talk," he said. "I may not have the experience Washington likes but I believe I have the experience America needs right now."

    With Clinton still riding high in most polls as the fall campaign was set to begin in earnest, both Obama and John Edwards have stepped up their claim that Clinton is too cautious and too conventional to bring real change to Washington.

    "Hope and change are not just the rhetoric of a campaign for me," he said, adding that for others, politics seemed to be a game.

    He also vowed to tell the truth always as president.

    "You shouldn't expect anything less from your president," he said to loud cheers.

    Obama had a full day of campaign appearances in New Hampshire, where polls show him trailing Clinton by a wide margin.

    With his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha, Obama participated in a Labor Day parade in Milford. He and Republican hopeful Mitt Romney exchanged greetings at the parade staging area before meeting voters along the two-mile parade route.

    The Obama family was also scheduled to attend an ice cream social and a community dinner.

    Most Dems Vow To Skip Early Primaries

    (AP) Barack Obama and John Edwards joined three other Democrats in vowing to skip states that break party rules by holding early primaries, a move that leaves only a few candidates planning to compete in person in Florida and Michigan.

    The decision by Obama and Edwards is a major boost to the primacy of the four early voting states - Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina - and a welcome development to the Democratic National Committee, which has tried to impose discipline on a handful of unruly states determined to vote before Feb. 5.

    "As I have campaigned across America over the last six months, it's become clear that Governor (Howard) Dean and the Democratic National Committee have put together a presidential nomination process that's in the best interests of our party and our nation," Obama said in a written statement.

    Said Edwards, also in a statement: "Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina need to be first because in these states ideas count, not just money. This tried-and-true nominating system is the only way for voters to judge the field based on the quality of the candidate, not the depth of their war chest."

    Obama and Edwards signed onto the pledge to only campaign in the early voting states a day after Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson and Joe Biden had endorsed the plan. The pledge had been circulated by Democratic leaders of the four early voting states that have party approval to hold early contests. The pledge says they won't compete in any other states that vote before Feb. 5, as Florida plans to do and Michigan is poised to do.

    Their decision is a blow to Florida, which had moved its primary to Jan. 29, and Michigan, where the legislature this week voted to push its primary to Jan. 15. Michigan acted despite the DNC's threat to punish Florida by stripping it of its 210 delegates unless it comes up with another plan in the next four weeks.

    The chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, Karen Thurman, has criticized the pledge, calling it "a pact to ignore tens of millions of diverse Americans by a selfish, four-state alliance of party insiders."

    Clinton aides said Friday they were reviewing the pledge.

    Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee said the New York senator is committed to the "special role" that the four states play and that she will campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire no matter the dates of their contests.

    "A number of other states are undergoing a process," Elleithee said. "And we have repeatedly said we are going to let that process play out."

    The prospect of five candidates bypassing Florida and Michigan would essentially turn those contests into non-binding beauty contests, with no delegates at stake if the DNC imposed its punishment.

    Party rules for this cycle had Iowa's caucuses on Jan. 14, with tests in Nevada Jan. 19, New Hampshire Jan. 22 and South Carolina Jan. 29.

    New Hampshire and Iowa are considering earlier contests to maintain their influence, but the pledge does not prohibit candidates from campaigning in those states even if they go earlier than the national party allows.

    Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was preparing to sign legislation that would move its contest to Jan. 15, despite the threat of similar sanctions. She encouraged the candidates to ignore the pact, saying her state's manufacturing crisis and unfair trade policies were more important than the politics behind which states get to vote early.

    Dodd, Richardson and Biden have the most incentive to keep the contest focused on the states approved by the DNC. They have raised less money and can't afford to organize in multiple states at the same times, especially those with expensive media markets such as Florida and Michigan where Clinton is a substantial favorite in the polls.

    Financial concerns also were a factor for Edwards, who has lagged behind Clinton and Obama in fundraising. Edwards also favored caucuses in Michigan, hoping a strong labor turnout would improve his chances, but the state had been moving toward a primary.

    Why Karl Touts Hillary

    Karl Rove knew exactly what he was doing. In a round of interviews as he exited the White House, the man President Bush called the "architect" of his re-election was designing something else: a push for Hillary Clinton's nomination. "I think she's likely to be the nominee," he told Rush Limbaugh. "And I think she's fatally flawed." All observations that, coming from anyone else, might be considered routine punditry. But when Rove speaks, the political class pays attention - usually with good reason. And this time, Rove's eagerness to engage on the question of Clinton was no spontaneous event. Ever a helpful fellow, he's happy to drive Democrats into the arms of Hillary by taking her on.

    All of which creates the oddest Rove and Clinton coupling. After all, her interests and his are perfectly aligned right now: He wants her to be the Democratic nominee (because he thinks she will lose). And she does, too (because she thinks she will win). So Rove happily promotes the idea that Clinton's nomination is "inevitable," a virtual done deal. And when Rove opines on Clinton in any way, she's just as thrilled to take him on. What better way to win over those liberal Democratic primary voters - skeptical about you because you voted for the Iraq war - than to remind them that the evil Rove is attacking you? "I don't think Karl Rove's going to endorse me," Clinton said at a recent Iowa debate, clearly relishing his attention, if not his affection. "That becomes more and more obvious. But I find it interesting he's so obsessed with me."

    Just interesting? More likely, it's a political marriage of convenience - a circumstance not altogether uncomfortable for Clinton. Indeed, the efficient Clinton campaign went into overdrive responding to Rove's charges that "she's got a weakness" on the issue of healthcare, given the debacle of Hillary's foray into the national health insurance debate as first lady. "This woman's got one idea on health care, which is to let the government do it all, and she's voted against all these very positive reforms which would allow the doctor and the patient to be in charge of health care." Translation: This can be a two-fer. Help Clinton win the nomination. At the same time, excite the depressed GOP faithful by taking her on.

    That's all fine by the Clinton campaign. And it's right; anyone who attacks her is doing her a favor, on lots of levels. When the critique comes from a Republican like Rove, she becomes the Democratic stalwart, the tough fighter, the candidate to fear - as she's the first to tell you. "You know, I have been fighting against these people [Republicans] for longer than anybody else up here," Clinton pointed out at the Iowa debate. "I've taken them on and we've beaten them. ... " Unspoken: No other Democrat - notably Barack Obama or John Edwards - can say that. An added plus for Hillary: As the object of GOP attacks, she even becomes more sympathetic - particularly to those single, lower-income, female Democratic primary voters she is working so hard to attract.

    Opponents Stagnate

    And what about the attacks from Democrats? So far, they've been either predictable or weak, or both. Obama has pounded her on her war vote; she's punched back by criticizing his "naive" foreign policy views. She talks of her 35 years of invaluable experience; he calls for a change from the old-style Washington politics (aka Clinton-Bush) to a post-boomer mindset. Yet while Obama's message resonates with a solid piece of the country sick of politics-as-usual, he hasn't managed to add to that base what he'll need to beat Hillary Clinton, at least according to recent polls. As for John Edwards, both he and his wife have been busy attacking Clinton's Washington connections and money, touting his "not for sale" candidacy - only to see his campaign lose altitude as his persona diminishes. (In one debate, Edwards took a dim view of the color of Hillary Clinton's blazer. Imagine what he would have said if she had been the one to get a $400 haircut.)

    This is not to say, of course, that Hillary Clinton should be off limits. But she has proved herself to be a strong adversary - and a steady politician. Sure, Karl Rove has a point: Clinton enters this race with among the highest negative ratings of any candidate "in the history of the Gallup Poll," with nearly half of all voters viewing her unfavorably. And she's clearly the candidate he would like to run against. Now all Rove has to figure out is who can beat her.

    Edwards: Congress Should Demand Withdrawal

    Sen. John Edwards On Face The Nation

    (CBS/AP) Congress should continue to push for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq regardless of what top military advisers say in their progress report next month, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said Sunday on Face The Nation.

    "I think they should not submit a single funding bill to the president for the war that doesn't have a timetable for withdrawal," Edwards told Bob Schieffer. "And I think they should use whatever legislative tool is available to them, including filibuster."

    The former North Carolina senator started the last day of his four-day bus tour of New Hampshire outside Manchester's City Hall, where he told several hundred people that they should ask themselves two key questions when the report is released. First, has Iraq made progress toward a political solution? And second, how long will troops be deployed if there is no progress?

    Edwards has said if he were president, he would remove about 50,000 American troops immediately, with the rest redeployed over about nine months. A troop withdrawal would show the Iraqi government that it needs to find a political compromise to end the conflict, he said.

    "There has to be some compromise between Maliki and the Shia-led government and the Sunni leadership," Edwards said. "Otherwise there'll never be stability and security in Iraq. And Maliki, who has been, clearly, a weak leader, needs to be focused on that job."

    Meanwhile, Sunday, Iraq's beleaguered prime minister lashed out at Democrats who have called for his ouster.

    "There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin. They should come to their senses," al-Maliki said.

    Al-Maliki struck back in the final days before the American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus is due in Washington for his September progress report.

    The Shiite prime minister said a negative report by Petraeus would not cause him to change course, although he said he expected Petraeus would "be supportive of the government and will disappoint the politicians who are relying on it" to be negative.

    Edwards said the prime minister is focusing on the wrong issue.

    "I think that Maliki should quit worrying about Democrats and the presidential campaign in America and start worrying about what he needs to do in his own country," Edwards said.

    "I mean, everyone knows that at the end of the day, as the Iraq Study Group has said and most of us have said at this point, there can be no military solution in Iraq. There has to be a political solution," he said.

    Edwards stopped short of saying al-Maliki should resign.

    "I think that's something for them to decide, not for us to decide," Edwards told Schieffer.

    The former Senator from North Carolina said that there was no way of predicting what would happen if the U.S. withdrew its troops from Iraq.

    "The truth is there are no good choices and no one can predict with any kind of accuracy exactly what's going to happen in Iraq," Edwards said. "We're going to maximize the chances of success, we're going to do this in an orderly and responsible way, but there's no way to know with certainty what will happen."

    To Win In Iowa, It's One Vote At A Time

    (AP) If Hillary Rodham Clinton wins Iowa's presidential caucuses, it won't be because of endorsements or poll numbers. It will be because of people like Carol McCarty, who lives in the state's heavily Republican northwest corner but plans to attend her local caucus and stand up for Clinton.

    "Hillary's been through the mill," McCarty, who calls herself a retired homemaker, said at a recent Clinton campaign meeting at a Pizza Ranch restaurant here. "She took a lot of abuse as first lady, and hopefully she knows how to handle it. She's very strong, she's very smart and I'm glad she's a woman."

    In Iowa, it's all about getting people to the caucuses on a cold night this winter. Currently, the caucuses are scheduled to take place Jan. 14, but the date is likely to move up as other states jockey to push their nominating contests forward as well.

    Identifying supporters like McCarty ・and persuading them to show up at the caucuses to choose delegates for each candidate ・is the central challenge facing Clinton and her rivals in this important early voting state. Democratic candidates have mounted vast organizational efforts across Iowa, deploying hundreds of staff and volunteers to feed, court and cajole finicky caucus-goers months before a vote is cast.

    "Our organizers sit down with supporters, go to their homes, go to coffee with them and give them several ways to become involved," said Angelique Pirozzi, who runs Clinton's Iowa field program. "It's fundamentally a program of relationships."

    Democratic rivals John Edwards and Barack Obama have also mounted strong operations in Iowa, and polls show a tight race here even as Clinton maintains a lead in national polls.

    Much has changed here for Clinton since May, when a memo surfaced from her deputy campaign manager urging her to skip Iowa ・"our consistently weakest state," in the memo's words.

    Since then, the campaign has redoubled its efforts in the state, opening 19 field offices and hiring more than 100 staffers. Supporters are being recruited to chair each of the state's 99 counties and 1,784 precincts. Clinton has stepped up her visits, and the campaign recently began running its first television commercials.

    Identifying supporters and persuading them to caucus for a candidate remains a slow and meticulous process for all the campaigns. Democratic campaigns also focus much of their efforts in rural Republican-leaning counties, where even a handful of supporters showing up on caucus night can yield delegates for a candidate.

    In Primghar, just nine voters showed up for what was billed as the Clinton campaign's O'Brien County kickoff meeting. The group was treated to pizza and presentations by local field organizer Rebecca Slutzky and by Rep. Jay Inslee, who flew to Iowa from his home state of Washington.

    "I'm here because Iowa's the most important place to be. The rest of the world watches and waits to see who Iowa picks," Slutzky, a Virginia native, told the group. "If you're undecided and you want to hear more, we'll set up a meeting. I'll sit in your living room as long as it takes."

    To make their pitch, Slutzky and Inslee carefully went through talking points. Attendees listened and asked questions, but by the end most remained uncommitted. Only McCarty promised to attend the caucuses for Clinton.

    "This has made my whole trip worthwhile!" Inslee said, asking McCarty if she'd be willing to call her friends and talk up Clinton's candidacy.

    "I'll speak personally to people. I'm not a great phone person," McCarty replied.

    GOP Sen.: Begin Iraq Pullout By Christmas

    "We simply cannot as a nation stand and continue to put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action"

    (CBS/AP) Sen. John Warner said Thursday President Bush should start bringing home some troops by Christmas to show the Baghdad government that the U.S. commitment in Iraq is not open-ended.

    The move puts the prominent Republican at odds with the president, who says conditions on the ground should dictate deployments.

    Warner, R-Va., said the troop withdrawals are needed because Iraqi leaders have failed to make substantial political progress, despite an influx of U.S. troops initiated by Bush earlier this year.

    The departure of even a small number of U.S. service members ・perhaps 5,000 out of the 160,000 troops in Iraq ・would send a powerful message throughout the region that time was running out, he said.

    "We simply cannot as a nation stand and continue to put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action," he told reporters after a White House meeting with Bush's top aides.

    Sen. Warner ・just back from Iraq ・said U.S. soldiers are now fighting for a failing government, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr.

    "I really firmly believe the Iraqi government under the leadership of Prime Minister Maliki has let our troops down," Warner said.

    It's the messenger, not the message, that is important, says CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer.

    "John Warner is the single most influential Republican voice on Capitol Hill," says Schieffer. "Other Republicans listen when he's talking about defense matters."

    Warner's new position is a sharp challenge to a wartime president that will undoubtedly color the upcoming Iraq debate on Capitol Hill. Next month, Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are expected to brief members on the war's progress.

    A White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, declined to say whether Bush might consider Warner's suggestion.

    Asked whether Bush would leave the door open to setting a timetable, Johndroe said: "I don't think the president feels any differently about setting a specific timetable for withdrawal. I just think it's important that we wait right now to hear from our commanders on the ground about the way ahead."

    Republicans, including Warner, have so far stuck with Bush and rejected Democratic proposals demanding troops leave Iraq by a certain date. But an increasing number of GOP members have said they are uneasy about the war and want to see Bush embrace a new strategy if substantial progress is not made by September.

    Warner, known for his party loyalty, said he still opposes setting a fixed timetable on the war or forcing the president's hand.

    "Let the president establish the timetable for withdrawal, not the Congress," he said.

    Nevertheless, his suggestion of troop withdrawals is likely to embolden Democrats and rile some of his GOP colleagues, who insist lawmakers must wait until Petraeus testifies.

    His stature on military issues also could sway some Republicans who have been reluctant to challenge a wartime president. Warner is a former Navy secretary and one-time chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; he is now the committee's second-ranking Republican.

    Warner said he came to his conclusion after visiting Iraq this month with Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, committee chairman. Earlier this week, Levin said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should be replaced. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., followed suit, saying Maliki has been "a failure."

    Warner said he "could not go that far" to call for Maliki's resignation but said he did have serious concerns about the effectiveness of the current leadership, confirmed by an intelligence report released Thursday. The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq predicted it would be 12 months before the U.S. could expect a reconciliation.

    "When I see an NIE which corroborates my own judgment ・that political reconciliation has not taken place ・the Maliki government has let down the U.S. forces and, to an extent, his own Iraqi forces," he said.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the report confirms what most Americans already know: "Our troops are mired in an Iraqi civil war and the president's escalation strategy has failed to produce the political results he promised to our troops and the American people."

    "Every day that we continue to stick to the president's flawed strategy is a day that America is not as secure as it could be," said Reid, a Nevada Democrat.

    McCain: "I Know What's Right For America"

    (CBS) Many of Republican Senator John McCain's positions have not been popular recently, but the presidential hopeful believes he has been making the right calls and doing what's best for the country, he said on Face The Nation.

    "I know what's right, and I'm going to do what's right, and at the end of the day, I'm going to sleep well at night, because I know what's right for America," he told Bob Schieffer.

    His two most controversial stances are on Iraq and immigration. McCain believes that the United States needs to stay in Iraq to help secure the nation and that the surge in troops needs more time to be tested.

    "We have got our opponents wanting to go back to a strategy that failed for four years, and abandon a strategy we have really only been pursuing for about four months, which is succeeding," McCain said. "If you set a date for withdrawal ・and that's what the Democrats are going to be proposing in the middle of September ・my friend, that's a date for surrender... It's going to be chaos, genocide, not only in Iraq but in the region."

    Within the Republican party, McCain said he has been most damaged by his fight for an immigration reform bill. He began this campaign season as the de facto frontrunner, but is now running fourth in some polls.

    "As president, I would say, 'I will secure the borders,'" he said. "But I still think we need a comprehensive approach to this immigration issue, including a temporary worker program. So, I think that was ・that was harmful to me."

    Current frontrunner former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani says he believes illegal immigration can be completely stopped. McCain says it can be brought under control by using things like a tamper-proof biometric identification documents. If an employer hires someone without one, McCain said, the employer would be prosecuted.

    "Then you dry up the magnet from south of the border, because if they know even if they get across our border that they can't get a job here, then I think that has a very big effect," McCain said. "But I believe we have to have a temporary worker program, and I mean temporary. If you're an agriculture worker, come for 10 months, go back for two months."

    Clinton Campaign Unveils First TV Ad

    (AP) Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled the first television ad of her presidential campaign Monday. The commercial targets voters in Iowa, where Clinton is in a tight race with rivals Barack Obama and John Edwards.

    The 60-second spot, which goes up Tuesday on Iowa television, intercuts scenes of Clinton interacting with voters with scenes of the candidate delivering a portion of her standard campaign speech. In the speech, Clinton speaks of the challenges facing many working people.

    "If you're a family that is struggling and you don't have health care, you are invisible to this president," she says. "If you're a single mom trying to find affordable child care so you can go to work, you're invisible, too."

    "Americans from all walks of life across our country may be invisible to this president, but they're not invisible to me and they won't be invisible to the next president of the United States," she says to applause.

    Images of Clinton walking in an Iowa farm field, talking to young mothers, children and seniors and addressing a crowd at a campaign event fill the screen.

    Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who endorsed Clinton after dropping his own bid for the Democratic nomination, unveiled the ad at a news conference.

    "This is the Hillary Clinton, not the one who has been vilified by some, but the Hillary Clinton who cares deeply about the people most in need," Vilsack said.

    The ad is aimed at softening Clinton's image. While polls have shown her running strongly, her negatives remain high and the spot is designed to introduce her to voters.

    The move intensifies Clinton's campaign in Iowa, her weakest state, and comes on the eve of her latest campaign swing here. Iowa is slated to hold its caucuses on Jan. 14, though the date is certain to change after South Carolina Republicans moved up their primary last week.

    Some state polls show Edwards leading while other surveys show Clinton, Obama and Edwards essentially tied. This is in contrast to national surveys and other state polls in which Clinton has a clear advantage. In May, Clinton's deputy campaign manager wrote a memo urging her to bypass the Iowa caucuses to focus time and money on states where she's faring better.

    Obama is already airing commercials in the state. The Democratic candidates are descending upon Iowa this week for photo-friendly appearances at the Iowa State Fair, a high-profile convention of the Iowa Federation of Labor and this weekend's debate sponsored by ABC.

    The New York senator was campaigning Monday in Nevada, which follows Iowa in the primary calendar.

    It was unclear how much Clinton would be spending on the ads. Ad buyers not connected with the Clinton campaign said her staff had not yet asked for available time slots or actually placed ads with television stations.

    U.S. Senator Defends Pakistan's Prez

    (AP) Following a meeting with Pakistan's leader, the Senate's second-highest ranking Democrat on Wednesday defended the country's efforts to battle al Qaeda along its mountainous border with Afghanistan.

    Speaking with reporters in a conference call from Iraq, Sen. Dick Durbin said Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf voiced concern over news reports that portray him as not doing enough to eradicate al Qaeda.

    "It would be a mistake to conclude that they are not making the effort. I believe they have," Durbin said, citing the deaths of 600 Pakistani soldiers. "I just believe they can be more effective in the way they're doing it."

    Durbin, the Senate's second-highest ranking Democrat, said Musharraf did not talk about fellow Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who has been criticized by Pakistan's government for suggesting he was prepared to send U.S. military forces into Pakistan if that is what it would take to eliminate al Qaeda as a terrorist threat.

    Durbin has been traveling in South Asia and the Middle East, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, where he arrived Wednesday. He met with Musharraf on Tuesday.

    Durbin is scheduled to be in Jordan on Thursday at a refugee camp with Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.

    In Iraq, he visited U.S. troops at a remote patrol base and later met with Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker in Baghdad.

    He said he envisions that even with U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq there would still be some U.S. military personnel embedded with Iraq's army for training purposes. He did not speculate about how many troops should remain. The U.S. military presence now hovers around 165,000.

    During much of the day Wednesday, Durbin was at a U.S. patrol base about 10 miles outside of Baghdad along the banks of the Tigris River, where he met with a force of about 900 servicemen, including many from Illinois.

    In Afghanistan, Durbin had meetings with officials in Kabul and took a trip to a border region with Pakistan, where he said al Qaeda and Taliban forces often gather.

    "I believe the Afghanis are anxious to stop the Taliban infiltration and al Qaeda as well," he said. "So, I have an optimistic feeling about this."

    He cautioned that U.S. allies from NATO are still needed in Afghanistan.

    "This is the war we should have focused on ・the war we can win," Durbin added. "We have to do our best to finish this."

    Meanwhile, Casey, on his first trip to Iraq, said he has been telling Iraqi leaders that Americans are troubled by the lack of political progress by the country's politicians.

    "The troops have met every assignment, they've beaten the odds time and again, they've done everything we've asked them to," Casey said in a conference call with reporters. "You could make a good argument they've won the war, but some still say that we need lots more time and lots more troops and lots more in the way of resources."

    Casey, who voted against a January plan that increased the number of troops in Iraq, said the Bush administration and political leaders in Iraq should be making progress that matches the intensity that U.S. troops have shown. He jas has not advocated for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, but he has supported measures that would bring most troops home by April.

    GOP Rivals Agree On Iraq, Spar On Abortion

    (CBS/AP) Republican presidential contenders sparred over abortion on Sunday while generally agreeing the United States must remain in Iraq to help win the war against radical Islamic extremists.

    "Just come home," dissented Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the lone advocate of a quick troop withdrawal from Iraq on a presidential campaign debate stage. He said there had never been a good reason to go to war in the first place.

    "Has he forgotten about 9/11?" interjected former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, referring to the 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

    But it was Romney who was forced to answer on the issue of abortion, when Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback defended automated phone calls his campaign has made highlighting his rival's one-time support for pro-choice policies.

    "It's truthful," Brownback said. "I am pro-life. I think this is a core issue for our party."

    Romney called it "desperate, maybe negative," adding moments later, "I get tired of people that are holier than thou because they've been pro-life longer than I have."

    The exchanges took place less than a week before Iowa Republicans gather for a party fundraiser and much-anticipated straw poll which is likely to determine the fate of several candidates. John McCain and Rudy Giuliani are not directly participating in the event but the other candidates have directed time and resources in the hopes of scoring a public relations victory next Saturday.

    Tensions in the state have risen over the past several weeks as the campaigns fight for the support of the conservative activists who will participate in the straw poll. "For candidates like Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback, this is a make-or-break moment," said Senior Political Editor Vaughn Ververs. "This is their chance to distinguish themselves and break out of a large group of candidates all competing for a limited pool of campaign money and support."

    In the absence of direct participation by Giuliani and McCain, Romney is the prohibitive favorite to win the straw poll and has been organizing supporters for months in advance. "Anything less than a clear win next Saturday would be a major setback for Romney, and that is why so many of the attacks by other candidates have been directed at him," said Ververs.

    For some of the less-known candidates without the financial resources and organization, the straw poll is even more critical. "A good showing next Saturday can keep a long-shot candidacy alive or even catapult it to a higher level," said Ververs. "But for some of these guys, anything less almost certainly means the end of the road."

    The debate unfolded on a Drake University stage, hosted and carried live by ABC television, five months before Iowa caucus-goers begin winnowing the field of White House contenders. The Iowa caucuses are the first major test for candidates in the presidential campaign season when voters in each state begin selecting delegates to their party's national nominating conventions.

    Arizona Sen. John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Romney, the most prominent contenders, agreed the United States must remain in Iraq. So, too, Brownback, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and Reps. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Duncan Hunter of California.

    "I firmly believe that the challenge for the 21st century is a challenge against radical extremism," McCain said. He forecast a battle in the Senate in September in which anti-war critics will try to cut off funds.

    "We will win that debate because the American people understand the consequences of failure," he added.

    Giuliani saved his sharpest jabs for Democrats. "In four debates, not a single Democrat said the word, 'Islamic terrorists.' Now that is taking political correctness to extreme," he said.

    Romney, too, was eager to criticize Democrats. His chosen target was Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who said recently he would be willing to meet with the leaders of Cuba, North Korea and Iran in his first year in office, and declared in a speech he would order military action to capture terrorists in Pakistan if that nation's president did not.

    "I mean, in one week he went from saying he's going to sit down, you know, for tea, with our enemies, but then he's going to bomb our allies," said Romney. "I mean, he's gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week."

    Obama's campaign spokesman responded promptly. "Before he makes more false accusations, Mitt Romney should tell us why he believes we should keep 160,000 American troops in the middle of someone else's civil war but not take out Osama bin Laden if we had him in our sights," said Bill Burton.

    Giuliani provided a rare moment of laughter, dodging a question about the defining mistake of his life with a quip.

    "Your father is a priest," the former mayor said to moderator George Stephanopoulos, the son of a Greek Orthodox priest. "I'm going to explain it to your father, not to you, OK?

    Polls consistently show the war in Iraq to be the issue uppermost in the minds of the voters. But abortion is a constant concern in Republican presidential contests, particularly in Iowa, where caucuses attract the most fervent party activists.

    Stephanopoulos opened the debate by asking Romney about Brownback's automated phone calls. Moments later, he asked the former Massachusetts governor about having said last spring that Giuliani was "pro-choice and pro-gay marriage and anti-gun, and that's a tough combination in a Republican primary."

    Romney deflected the question, saying, "I'd rather him speak to his own positions rather than me speak for him."

    Giuliani said he supports the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment, which provides for the right to bear arms, and believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.

    "And I believe the best way we can have common ground in this debate that you're hearing is if we put our emphasis on reducing abortions and increasing the number of adoptions, which is something that I did as mayor of New York City."

    But former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson said, "Any candidate that's pro-choice is going to have a difficulty with the party faithful. ... The Republican Party is a party of pro-life."

    Senate Votes For Sweeping Ethics Bill

    (AP) The Senate voted Thursday to make lawmakers disclose more about their efforts to fund pet projects and raise money from lobbyists, a move some called the biggest advance in congressional ethics in decades.

    The 83 to 14 vote, which sends the bill to President Bush, prompted Democrats to claim fulfillment of their 2006 campaign promise to crack down on lobbying abuses that sent some lawmakers and a prominent lobbyist to prison.

    The bill would require lawmakers to disclose those lobbyists who raise $15,000 or more for them within a six-month period by "bundling" donations from many people. Lawmakers seeking targeted spending projects, or "earmarks," would have to publicize their plans in advance, although critics said the requirements are hardly airtight.

    The Democratic-crafted bill would bar lawmakers from taking gifts from lobbyists or their clients. Former senators would have to wait two years before lobbying Congress; ex-House members would have to wait one year.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called it "the most sweeping reform bill since Watergate."

    But several Republicans said it fell short of requiring full disclosure of earmarks, which have soared in number ・and controversy ・in recent years. Some earmarks fund popular civic projects that boost a lawmaker's re-election prospects. Others help large contractors or other companies that hire lobbyists and donate to campaigns.

    The bill "has completely gutted the earmark reform provisions we overwhelmingly passed in January," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. He broke with several former allies on ethics matters, including Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.

    "By any measure," Feingold said in the debate, the bill "must be considered landmark legislation."

    Lawmakers seeking earmarks would have to publicize their plans 48 hours before a Senate vote. They would have to certify they have no direct financial interest in the items.

    McCain and others, however, said senators could circumvent the requirements by stating that prompt disclosure was not technically feasible, or by having the majority leader declare a bill earmark-free.

    Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it was ludicrous to suggest someone in his position would "cheat and lie" to hide earmarks.

    All 14 senators who voted against the bill were Republicans.

    Among those voting for it was GOP Sen. Ted Stevens, whose Alaska home was searched this week by federal agents probing alleged influence-peddling involving earmarks.

    Self-styled watchdog groups acknowledged that the bill was less stringent in several respects than were versions embraced by the House and Senate in January. But they hailed it as a major leap by an institution generally loath to police itself.

    Public Citizen said it amounts to "far-reaching lobbying and ethics reforms."

    Fred Wertheimer of Democracy21 called it "a great victory for the American people and a major accomplishment for Congress and its leaders." He said it will give the public "comprehensive information about the multiple ways in which lobbyists provide campaign funds and other financial support" to lawmakers they seek to influence.

    The 107-page bill would require senators, and candidates for the Senate or White House, to pay full charter rates for trips on private planes. House members and candidates would be barred from accepting trips on private planes.

    Senators' secret "holds" on legislation would be banned. Lawmakers convicted of bribery and other serious crimes would lose their congressional pensions.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gave the measure a lukewarm endorsement.

    "This bill isn't nearly as tough as it would have been on earmarks if Republicans had been involved in writing it," McConnell said. "But weighing the good and the bad, many provisions are stronger than current law."

    The White House did not immediately say whether Bush will sign the bill.

    The legislation marks Congress' most far-reaching reaction to scandals involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif. Both are now in prison on corruption charges that in some cases involved congressional earmarks.

    Reform advocates said the bill's main achievement involves greater disclosure of lobbyists who bundle campaign donations to lawmakers and political parties by soliciting checks from numerous people. Under current disclosure laws, their efforts often go undetected, but the recipients are well aware of the help they received.

    Earlier versions of the bill would have required lobbyist-bundlers, rather than the recipients, to disclose such contributions. They also had set the reporting threshold at $5,000 over six months, rather than $15,000.

    Cheney Optimistic About New Iraq Report

    (AP) Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday a pivotal September report on the war in Iraq is likely to show 都ignificant progress・・putting himself ahead of President Bush, who has refused to speculate on what the report will say.

    Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are required to report to Congress by Sept. 15 on progress in Iraq. Their evaluation is expected to shape the administration's next move on the war, including decisions on how many U.S. troops will stay in Iraq, and for how long.

    典he reports I'm hearing from people whose views I respect indicate that the Petraeus plan is in fact producing results,・Cheney told CNN's Larry King in an interview to be telecast Tuesday night. 哲ow, admittedly, I've been on one side of this argument from the beginning.・

    The White House has been touting encouraging signs of progress since Bush ordered a troop buildup in Iraq in January. Yet Bush has deferred comment on the upcoming report itself.

    的 don't want to prejudge what David is going to say,・Bush told reporters as recently as Monday.

    Discussing his low public approval rating, Cheney said he just doesn't worry about it. He said he would like to be liked, but only up to a point.

    的f you wanted to be liked, I should never have gotten into politics in the first place,・he said. 迭emember, success for a politician is 50 percent plus one. You don't have to have everybody on board.・

    Cheney would not comment on whether Bush should eventually pardon his friend and former chief of staff, I. Lewis 鉄cooter・Libby. Bush commuted a 30-month jail sentence for Libby, who was convicted of lying and obstructing justice in a probe into the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

    Libby was left with a $250,000 fine and two years' probation.

    的 think having the commutation of sentence decided has been a huge relief for him, but he still has a very difficult road,・Cheney said. 滴e's got ・obviously he needs to find work. He's got legal bills. He carries the burden of having been convicted. All those are not easy problems.・

    Libby's friends and supporters have raised more than $5 million to cover legal fees and were continuing to raise money even after his sentence was commuted. Given the scope of his legal defense and top attorneys he chose to represent him, Libby's bills are expected to well exceed the $5 million raised.

    Pelosi Boasts Over Homeland Security Bill

    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Capitol Hill

    (AP) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used the Democrats' weekly radio address Saturday to tout her party's passage of legislation to implement major recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

    The House passed the bill Friday on a 371-40 vote, a day after the Senate passed it 85-8. The White House said the president would sign it.

    The legislation would shift money to high-risk states and cities, expand screening of air and sea cargo and put money into a new program to ensure that security officials at every level can communicate with each other.

    Its passage ranks among the top accomplishments of the 6-month-old Democratic Congress. Republicans would say it's one of the few.

    "We will have done in six months what previous Congresses failed to do for almost six years," said Pelosi, D-Calif.

    "Implementing the recommendations will fundamentally change the way the president and the Congress deal with matters related to terrorism, making us more unified and more effective," she said. "That is because this bill closes loopholes and weaknesses that terrorists seek to exploit."

    The independent 9/11 Commission in 2004 issued 41 recommendations covering domestic security, intelligence gathering and foreign policy. Congress and the White House followed through on some, including creating a director of national intelligence, tightening land border screening and cracking down on terrorist financing.

    Democrats, after taking over control of Congress, promised to make completing the list a top priority, and Republicans generally went along.

    The House passed the original version of the 9/11 Commission bill the first day of the current Congress. The minimum wage increase the Democrats passed in those first days has just taken effect, but other early priorities ・such as energy reform and stem cell research funding ・remain far from becoming reality. Bush vetoed a stem cell bill last month.

    The 9/11 bill would require screening of all cargo on passenger planes within three years. It also sets a five-year goal for scanning all container ships for nuclear devices before they leave foreign ports.

    "The threat of terrorist violence against the United States is growing. Al Qaeda is gaining strength, and Osama bin Laden continues to elude capture," Pelosi said. "There is not a moment to spare to take the steps necessary to keep the American people safe."

    Documents Contradict Gonzales Testimony

    (AP) Documents indicate eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

    The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, come as senators consider whether a perjury investigation should be opened into conflicting accounts about the program and a dramatic March 2004 confrontation leading up to its potentially illegal reauthorization.

    A Gonzales spokesman maintained Wednesday that the attorney general stands by his testimony.

    At a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly testified that the issue at hand was not about the terrorist surveillance program, which allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspects in the United States without receiving court approval.

    Instead, Gonzales said, the emergency meetings on March 10, 2004, focused on an intelligence program that he would not describe.

    Gonzales, who was then serving as counsel to Bush, testified that the White House Situation Room briefing sought to inform congressional leaders about the pending expiration of the unidentified program and Justice Department objections to renew it. Those objections were led by then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey, who questioned the program's legality.

    "The dissent related to other intelligence activities," Gonzales testified at Tuesday's hearing. "The dissent was not about the terrorist surveillance program."

    "Not the TSP?" responded Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. "Come on. If you say it's about other, that implies not. Now say it or not."

    "It was not," Gonzales answered. "It was about other intelligence activities."

    A four-page memo from the national intelligence director's office shows that the White House briefing with the eight lawmakers on March 10, 2004, was about the terror surveillance program, or TSP.

    The memo, dated May 17, 2006, and addressed to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, details "the classification of the dates, locations, and names of members of Congress who attended briefings on the Terrorist Surveillance Program," wrote then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

    It shows that the briefing in March 2004 was attended by the Republican and Democratic House and Senate leaders and leading members of both chambers' intelligence committees, as Gonzales testified.

    Bush acknowledged the existence of the classified surveillance program in December 2005 after it was revealed by The New York Times. In January, it was put under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for judicial review before any wiretaps were to be approved.

    Asked for comment on the documents Wednesday evening, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Gonzales "stands by his testimony."

    "The disagreement referenced by Jim Comey in March 2004 was not about the particular intelligence activity that has been publicly described by the president," Roehrkasse said. "It was about other highly classified intelligence activities that have been briefed to the intelligence committees."

    The disagreement over whether to renew the program led to a dramatic, and highly controversial, confrontation between Gonzales and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on the night of March 10, 2004.

    After briefing the congressional leaders, Gonzales testified that he and then-White House chief of staff Andy Card headed to a Washington hospital room, where a sedated Ashcroft was recovering from surgery. Ashcroft had already turned over his powers as attorney general to Comey.

    Comey was in the hospital room as well, and recounted to senators in his own sworn testimony in May that he "thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me."

    Ultimately, Ashcroft sided with Comey, and Gonzales and Card left the hospital after a five- to six-minute conversation.

    Gonzales denied that he and Card tried to pressure Ashcroft into approving the program over Comey's objections.

    "We never had any intent to ask anything of him if we did not feel that he was competent," Gonzales told the Senate panel Tuesday. "At the end of his description of the legal issues, he said, 'I'm not making this decision. The deputy attorney general is.' And so Andy Card and I thanked him. We told him that we would continue working with the deputy attorney general and we left."

    Clinton: Obama "Irresponsible" And "Naive"

    (AP) Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday called rival Barack Obama's debate claim that he'd be willing to meet with leaders of rogue nations "irresponsible and frankly naive."

    The New York senator, in an interview with Iowa's Quad-City Times, made her first direct criticism of her chief rival after the two campaigns engaged in a back-and-forth about Obama's remarks in Monday night's debate.

    In the debate, Obama was asked if he would be willing to meet ・without precondition ・in the first year of his presidency with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

    "I would," he responded.

    Clinton said she would not.

    "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes," she said. Her campaign quickly posted video of her answer online, trying to show she has a different understanding of foreign policy than her chief rival.

    Asked about the exchange, she told the newspaper that Obama is regretting his answer a day later.

    "I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naive," Clinton said. The interview was posted on the newspaper's Web site.

    In a separate interview with the newspaper, Obama said: "What she's somehow maintaining is my statement could be construed as not having asked what the meeting was about. I didn't say these guys were going to come over for a cup of coffee some afternoon."

    The rival campaigns clashed over the meaning of Obama's answer. Clinton supporters characterized it as a gaffe that underscored the freshman senator's lack of foreign-policy savvy, while Obama's team claimed his response displayed judgment and a repudiation of President Bush's diplomacy.

    "I would think that without having done the diplomatic spadework, it would not really prove anything," former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in a conference call with reporters set up by the Clinton campaign.

    Obama's team summoned Anthony Lake, who was national security adviser in President Clinton's first term and now serves as a foreign policy adviser to Obama.

    "A great nation and its president should never fear negotiating with anyone and Senator Obama rightly said he would be willing to do so ・just as Richard Nixon did with China and Ronald Reagan with the Soviet Union," Lake said.

    In a memo from Obama spokesman Bill Burton, the campaign contended that Obama's comments played well with focus groups that watched the debate and "showed his willingness to lead and ask tough questions on matters of war."

    Obama "offered a dramatic change from the Bush administration's eight-year refusal to protect our security interests by using every tool of American power available ・including diplomacy," said the memo.

    Obama adviser David Axelrod said on Tuesday that Obama would not just meet blindly with such leaders but only after diplomatic spadework had been accomplished.

    Americans "are sick of the Bush diplomacy and aren't interested in continuing it," said Axelrod.

    The Obama campaign was quick to point to an April 23 quote from Clinton in which she said, "I think it's a terrible mistake for our president to say he won't talk to bad people." That, Obama representatives said, showed Clinton had changed her position.

    Clinton advisers noted that the New York senator's full quote included a line that she would first "begin diplomatic discussions with those countries" before such meetings ・same as she said in Monday's debate.

    "I never would have gotten out of the debate last night that there was any change in position," Albright said.

    She emphasized that Obama had said he would meet with such leaders in his first year without preconditions.

    "If you look back at real breakthroughs and diplomatic history, what you basically find is that in order to understand where the situation is, to clear the underbrush away, it is necessary to have lower level people make the initial contact," Albright said.

    In a memo, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said Obama "has committed to presidential-level meetings with some of the world's worst dictators without precondition during his first year in office. Senator Clinton is committed to vigorous diplomacy but understands that it is a mistake to commit the power and prestige of America's presidency years ahead of time by making such a blanket commitment."

    Obama representatives also sought to emphasize anew Clinton's initial support for the war, echoing comments by the candidate himself who asserted in the debate: "The time to ask how we're going to get out of Iraq was before we got in."

    Rival John Edwards, who campaigned in South Carolina on Tuesday, echoed Clinton's comments in the debate.

    "I would not commit myself on the front end openly to meet with (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad, (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Il, (Venezuelan President) Hugo Chavez," Edwards told reporters in McClellanville, S.C. "I think there's a real potential that would be used as a propaganda tool."

    21st Century Debate: Grilled By Web Video

    (CBS/AP) Young, Internet-savvy voters challenged Democratic presidential hopefuls on Iraq, the military draft and the candidates' own place in a broken political system, playing starring roles in a provocative, video-driven debate Monday night.

    "Wassup?" came the first question, from a voter named Zach, after another, named Chris, opened the CNN-YouTube debate with a barb aimed at the entire eight-candidate field: "Can you as politicians ... actually answer questions rather than beat around the bush?"

    The answer was a qualified yes. The candidates faced a slew of blunt questions ・from earnest to the ridiculous ・and, in many cases, responded in kind.

    To Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois: Are you black enough? "You know, when I'm catching a cab in Manhattan ... I'm giving my credentials," he replied.

    To Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York: Are you feminine enough? "I couldn't run as anything other than a woman," she said.

    Her answer drew a challenge from former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who said he was the best advocate for women on the debate stage. "I have the strongest, boldest ideas," he said.

    Posing a question that few, if any, of the candidates had fielded before, one voter asked whether young women should register for the draft as do young men. Clinton, Obama and Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut said yes.

    The debate featured questions submitted to the online video community YouTube and screened by the all-news cable TV network. A talking snowman, two rednecks and a woman speaking from her bathroom were among the odd, 21st-century twists to the oldest forum in politics: a debate.

    "This debate is an acknowledgement of the power of YouTube and the entire Internet as a force in American politics in 2007," senior political editor Vaughn Ververs said. "Campaigns and political operatives have found ways to tap into that power for fundraising and communications purposes. The bigger question now is whether they can find a way to harness it in a way that translates into actual votes at the ballot box."

    A Clio, Mich., man asked about gun control while brandishing an automatic weapon.

    "He needs help," Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware snapped.

    When was the last time a presidential candidate was forced to promise to work at minimum wage? That is effectively what seemed to happen when a voter asked whether the candidates would serve four years at $5.85 an hour rather than the president's annual $400,000 salary.

    "Sure," replied Clinton.

    Obama said they group could afford to do so. When Dodd started to protest, Obama cut him off with a joke, "You're doing OK, Chris."

    The gathering was held at the military college of The Citadel in South Carolina, site of one of the earliest primaries ・Jan. 29. Fittingly, the Democrats skirmished over the Iraq war, as they have before.

    Asked if Democrats are playing politics with the war, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio said yes. "The Democrats have failed the people," he said.

    Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel said U.S. soldiers are dying in vain. No other candidate would go that far.

    Reid: GOP Protecting Bush Not Troops

    (CBS/AP) Senate Republicans who blocked a vote on setting a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq are more interested in protecting the president than protecting American troops, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Sunday on Face The Nation.

    "Even Iraqis, by a 70 percent margin, think that Americans in Iraq are doing more harm than good," he said. "So getting the Americans out of Iraq ... I think, would lessen chaos rather than increase it."

    The legislation stalled Wednesday after a 52-47 vote fell eight votes short of the 60 that Democrats needed to advance it. Reid kept the Senate all night Tuesday to try to force some movement on the issue.

    Critics have charged the Democratic leader with failing to compromise after he ended debate early Wednesday morning, but Reid said he only wanted to force an up-or-down vote.

    "I offered on many occasions ・not one, two, three, four occasions ・many occasions said, 'Let's vote on all the Iraq amendments, all of them, and have a simple majority for them.' The Republicans wouldn't let us," Reid said. "They would not let us vote on the Iraq amendment because they are more interested, minus Olympia Snowe and a few others, they're more interested in protecting the president than they are protecting the troops."

    Reid said Democrats do not want to withdraw troops precipitously, but rather set a timetable where forces would be redeployed by May 1, 2008. The U.S. military would then focus on counterterrorism, protecting American assets in the Middle East and training Iraqi troops, Reid said.

    Senator Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who sits on the Select Committee on Intelligence, was one of four Republicans who broke with her party and voted Wednesday with the Democrats. She said Congress and the president need to reach a compromise and start to bring troops home in anticipation of an assessment to be given by Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq.

    "The president needs to understand that September 15 is going to be a serious deadline for change in our mission," she said on Face The Nation. "If you look where we are today, I mean, it's been eight months since the election, where the American people repudiated the stay-the-course in Iraq, rejected the open-ended, unconditional commitment by the president in Iraq."

    Snowe said that Congress, which has a 14 percent approval rating, isn't reflecting the views of the American people.

    "Here we are 8 months later, who would've believed that we would be now committing additional troops of more than 30,000 and the Iraqi government has yet to achieve one political benchmark to reconcile their country," she said. "And more outrageously that they plan to take the month of August off while our men and women dying in the field. So we're making the military sacrifice, our brave men and women yet they are unable to make a political sacrifice to achieve what only they can achieve in the end and that is to reconcile their country and to take charge of their own destiny."

    But at the same time, Snowe said Reid should be more willing to compromise, even though Republicans blocked a straight-majority vote.

    Obama: Don't Stay In Iraq Over Genocide

    (AP) Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.

    "Well, look, if that's the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now ・where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife ・which we haven't done," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.

    "We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven't done. Those of us who care about Darfur don't think it would be a good idea," he said.

    Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, said it's likely there would be increased bloodshed if U.S. forces left Iraq.

    "Nobody is proposing we leave precipitously. There are still going to be U.S. forces in the region that could intercede, with an international force, on an emergency basis," Obama said between stops on the first of two days scheduled on the New Hampshire campaign trail. "There's no doubt there are risks of increased bloodshed in Iraq without a continuing U.S. presence there."

    The greater risk is staying in Iraq, Obama said.

    "It is my assessment that those risks are even greater if we continue to occupy Iraq and serve as a magnate for not only terrorist activity but also irresponsible behavior by Iraqi factions," he said.

    The senator has been a fierce critic of the war in Iraq, speaking out against it even before he was elected to his post in 2004. He was among the senators who tried unsuccessfully earlier this week to force President Bush's hand and begin to limit the role of U.S. forces there.

    "We have not lost a military battle in Iraq. So when people say if we leave, we will lose, they're asking the wrong question," he said. "We cannot achieve a stable Iraq with a military. We could be fighting there for the next decade."

    Obama said the answer to Iraq ・and other civil conflicts ・lies in diplomacy.

    "When you have civil conflict like this, military efforts and protective forces can play an important role, especially if they're under an international mandate as opposed to simply a U.S. mandate. But you can't solve the underlying problem at the end of a barrel of a gun," he said. "There's got to be a deliberate and constant diplomatic effort to get the various factions to recognize that they are better off arriving at a peaceful resolution of their conflicts."

    The Republican National Committee accused Obama of changing his position on the war.

    "Barack Obama can't seem to make up his mind," said Amber Wilkerson, an RNC spokeswoman. "First he says that a quick withdrawal from Iraq would be 'a slap in the face' to the troops, and then he votes to cut funding for our soldiers who are still in harm's way. Americans are looking for principled leadership ・not a rookie politician who is pandering to the left wing of his party in an attempt to win an election."

    Obama, who has expressed reservations about capital punishment but does not oppose it, said he would support the death penalty for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    "The first thing I'd support is his capture, which is something this administration has proved incapable of achieving," Obama said. "I would then, as president, order a trial that observed international standards of due process. At that point, do I think that somebody who killed 3,000 Americans qualifies as someone who has perpetrated heinous crimes, and would qualify for the death penalty. Then yes."

    In response to criticism from Republican Mitt Romney, Obama said the former Massachusetts governor was only trying to "score cheap political points" when he told a Colorado audience that Obama wanted sex education for kindergartners.

    "All I said was that I support the same laws that exist in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, in which local communities and parents can make decisions to provide children with the information they need to deal with sexual predators," Obama said.

    Romney on Wednesday targeted Obama for supporting a bill during his term in the Illinois state Senate that would have, among other things, provided age-appropriate sex education for all students.

    "How much sex education is age appropriate for a 5-year-old? In my mind, zero is the right number," Romney said.

    Obama said Romney was wrong to take the shot and incorrect on its basis.

    "We have to deal with a coarsening of the culture and the over-sexualization of our young people. Look, I've got two daughters, 9 and 6 years old," Obama told the AP. "Of course, part of the coarsening of that culture is when politicians try to demagogue issues to score cheap political points."

    "What we shouldn't do is to try to play a political football with these issues and express them in ways that are honest and truthful," Obama said. "Certainly, what we shouldn't do is engage in hypocrisy."

    Romney himself once indicated support for similar programs that Obama supports.

    In 2002, Romney told Planned Parenthood in a questionnaire that he also supported age-appropriate sex education. He checked yes to a question that asked: "Do you support the teaching of responsible, age-appropriate, factually accurate health and sexuality education, including information about both abstinence and contraception, in public schools?"

    Poll: 63% Say Clinton "Likely" To Win

    (CBS) A new CBS News/New York Times poll out Thursday shows 63 percent of voters believe it's likely that Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton will be elected the first woman president in U.S. history if she wins her party's nomination.

    While opinions about the New York senator are strongly divided by gender, majorities of both men (59 percent) and women (65 percent) surveyed think it's very or somewhat likely Clinton will win the presidency.

    Even most Republicans (53 percent) think Clinton will win ・as do 77 percent of Democrats.

    LIKELY CLINTON WILL WIN IN NOVEMBER 2008? (Among registered voters)

    Very/somewhat likely
    Not very/not at all likely

    Very/somewhat likely
    Not very/not at all likely

    Very/somewhat likely
    Not very/not at all likely

    The poll shows Clinton continuing to hold a solid lead over the rest of the Democratic field. Among likely Democratic primary voters, she has a 43-24 percent edge over her closest rival, Sen. Barack Obama. Former Sen. John Edwards is third at 16 percent.

    On the Republican side, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani remains the front-runner at 33 percent, but still-undeclared candidate Fred Thompson, the actor and former senator, is gaining ground, up to 25 percent. Sen. John McCain has slipped to 15 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 8 percent.

    More voters (75 percent) say Clinton is a strong leader, than say this about Giuliani (71 percent) and Obama (68 percent). Obama has a slight lead over Clinton when voters were asked whether a candidate shares their moral values, while Giuliani trails.

    Clinton falls behind, however, on the question of believability. More voters think she's likely to say what people want to hear than say that about either Obama or Giuliani.





    On specific issues, a majority of voters thinks Clinton would make good decisions on health care (74 percent) and foreign policy (68 percent), while 58 percent think she'd be effective as commander in chief. But many (52 percent) are "uneasy" about her ability to handle an international crisis.

    Forty-one percent of voters think Clinton's vote authorizing the Iraq war was a mistake, while 53 percent think it was not. But even those who see it as a mistake don't feel overwhelmingly that she needs to apologize.

    There is a significant gender gap on nearly every question asked about Clinton, with women having a more positive opinion of her than men.

    The poll suggests that Sen. Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, will not have a major impact on the election. Half of voters think her marriage to him will not influence her support one way or the other; while voters who think the marriage will have an impact are evenly split between those who think it will help her and those who think it will hurt her.

    The poll also asked about President Bush and the U.S. Congress, and both receive the same low overall job approval ratings: 29 percent. Majorities say they're disappointed with both the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress.

    Pessimism about the overall direction of the country remains high, too, with more than seven in 10 Americans saying the U.S. is on the wrong track.

    This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,554 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone July 9-17, 2007. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. An oversample of women was also conducted for this poll, for a total of 1,068 interviews among this group, by selecting them with higher probability than men in households with both men and women. The weights of men and women in mixed-gender households were adjusted to compensate for their different probabilities of selection. The final weighted distribution of men and women in the sample is in proportion to the composition of the adult population in the U.S. Census.

    Dems Vow All-Night Senate Debate On Iraq

    (AP) Democrats pushed the Senate toward an attention-grabbing, all-night session Tuesday to dramatize opposition to the Iraq war, but conceded they were unlikely to gain the votes needed to advance troop withdrawal legislation blocked by Republicans.

    "Our enemies aren't threatened by talk-a-thons, and our troops deserve better than publicity stunts," said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

    McConnell and many other Republicans favor waiting until September before considering any changes to the Bush administration's current policy. They have vowed to block a final vote on the Democrats' attempt to require a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days.

    "We have no alternative except to keep them in session to explain their obstruction," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

    So far, the legislation has drawn the support of three Republicans, Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

    With a test vote set for Wednesday ・capping a day and night of debate ・Democratic officials conceded they were likely to get 52 or 53 votes at most. That's well short of the 60 needed to force a final vote on the measure.

    While the issue was momentous ・a war more than four years in duration, costing more than 3,600 U.S. troops their lives ・the proceedings were thick with politics., the anti-war group, announced plans for more than 130 events around the country to coincide with the Senate debate, part of an effort to pressure Republicans into allowing a final vote on the legislation. A candlelight vigil and rally across the street from the Capitol was prominent among them, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expected to attend.

    Inside the Capitol, the session shaped up as the Senate's first all-nighter since 2003. Then, as now, the Senate staff wheeled about a dozen cots into a room near the chamber for any lawmakers needing them.

    But the political roles were reversed. Four years ago, Republicans demanded votes on Mr. Bush's judicial nominees, and Democrats filibustered to avoid certain confirmation of several conservative appointees.

    Then, Reid labeled the Republican-led all night-session a "circus," while other Democrats stoutly defended their right to set a 60-vote threshold for confirmation.

    And then, McConnell talked critically of "unprecedented filibusters of President Bush's nominees" by Democrats, while other Republicans said they simply wanted an "up or down vote" on judicial appointments.

    "Will the all-night session change any votes? I hope so," Reid said at midafternoon this year, pointedly stopping well short of a prediction that it would.

    Smith and Snowe appeared with Democratic supporters of the legislation at a news conference.

    "We are at the crossroads of hope and reality, and the time has come to address reality," said Snowe, who said the Iraqi government was guilty of "serial intransigence" when it came to trying to solve the country's political problems.

    Smith, who is seeking re-election next year, said Iraqis appeared focused on "revenge, not reconciliation," and that the administration needed to change its approach. "The American mission is to make sure that Iraq doesn't fall into the hands of al Qaeda," he said, rather than referee a civil war.

    The legislation would require a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days, to be completed by April 2008. The measure envisions leaving an undetermined number of troops behind, their mission limited to counterterrorism against al Qaeda and other groups, protecting U.S. assets and training Iraqi troops.

    There are currently an estimated 158,000 U.S. personnel in Iraq, and supporters of the legislation have repeatedly declined to estimate how large a residual force they envision. "We're not going to get into numbers, because it changes the subject," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. The subject, he said, was focusing attention on Republican blocking tactics. Levin is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a leading sponsor of the measure along with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.

    While most Republicans have resisted the withdrawal bill, unhappiness with Mr. Bush's policy has been growing within the GOP ranks.

    Sens. John Warner of Virginia and Richard Lugar of Indiana, two senior Republicans with long experience in military and foreign policy, last week proposed legislation to require Mr. Bush to submit a new strategy by Oct. 16. It would focus on protecting Iraqi borders, targeting terrorists, protecting U.S. assets and training Iraqi forces.

    In addition, at least six Republicans support a bipartisan measure that would set a goal of beginning a troop withdrawal in early 2008.

    In the complex political environment of the Senate, neither of those two measures seems likely to gain much traction in the next few weeks.

    Democratic leaders oppose them as too weak to force a change in Mr. Bush's policy. Administration allies are determined to block any measure that contemplates a change in policy before September.

    Obama, Clinton Have Over $30M In The Bank

    (CBS/AP) Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton ended the first half of the year with more than $30 million each for the presidential primaries, a formidable financial performance for the two leading Democratic White House contenders.

    As the two rivals basked in money, Republican Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign reported spending more than it raised from April through June, leaving him financially strapped with $3.2 million cash on hand and a $1.8 million debt.

    Those contrasting financial pictures emerged Sunday from quarterly financial reports filed by the campaigns with the Federal Election Commission.

    Obama reported having about $34 million in primary cash on hand; Clinton reported $33 million. Obama had an edge on money owed by the campaign; he reported less than $1 million in debts and Clinton reported $3 million.

    Obama led in fundraising for the period covering April though June, raising $32 million for the primary election and nearly $800,000 for the general election.

    Clinton raised about $21.5 million for the primary and $5.6 million for the general election, her campaign said.

    Neither candidate can use the general election money unless he or she wins the nomination.

    It's not just how much the candidates are raising, it's how much earlier they're raising it compared with past election years, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod. This year, half of the country will have voted in nominating contests by Feb. 5. Candidates can't afford to wait ・even when they can't afford much else.

    John Edwards, the Democrat closest to the two fundraising leaders, reported having $12 million in the bank for the primary.

    Hindered by unpopular stands on the war and on immigration, McCain raised $11.26 million in the second quarter, short of his first-quarter donations. He spent $13 million. Overall, McCain has raised $25 million so far in his campaign and spent $22 million.

    The Arizona senator upended his campaign organization last week as his financial straits became apparent. His campaign manager, Terry Nelson, left and his longtime strategist, John Weaver, resigned. The repercussions caused changes down the chain of command.

    While his financial straits have been known for more than a week, the reports show that McCain spent more on staff than either of his better financed rivals. McCain's payroll grew after the first quarter, despite initial cutbacks. Overall, McCain payroll was nearly $3.6 million for the year so far.

    Obama enters the third quarter with more fundraising momentum than Clinton. Not only has he aggressively gone after money, he has also worked to expand his donor base. His efforts have netted him more than 250,000 donors for the year. Overall, he has raised nearly $59 million, with all but about $1.7 million devoted to the primary election.

    Despite his vaunted base of small donors, Obama is a favorite among employees of some of the nation's largest investment banks and hedge funds. One of them, Kenneth C. Griffin, president of Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel Investment Group, gave Obama $4,600 this quarter, the maximum allowed. Other Citadel employees gave him $147,550.

    Hadley: The Surge Can Work

    (CBS) With a growing number of Senators, Congressman and Americans losing confidence in the war in Iraq, the White House is trying to buttress it's case for seeing the fight through to the end.

    President Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, led a media campaign Sunday to reassure the nation that there is reason for optimism.

    U.S. and Iraqi forces are "now finally in a position to prosecute the surge, enhancing security in the country," Hadley said on Face The Nation.

    Hadley also said President Bush's troop "surge" was already showing some signs of progress, despite the mixed picture presented in an interim report on the war's progress.

    "If you listen and observe the reports of what is happening on the security side, it is working," Hadley told Bob Schieffer.

    Regaining Congressional support for the president's war policies, however, will be a difficult task for Bush administration officials. On Thursday, the Democrat-led House passed a measure that would withdraw U.S. troops by spring. On Friday, two prominent Republican senators put forward a bill that would require President Bush to come up with a plan to dramatically narrow the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq.

    The White House rejected the legislation proposed by Senators John Warner and Richard Lugar as premature and has promised to veto the House's withdrawal bill.

    Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said on Face The Nation that he does not support the Warner-Lugar legislation because it is a Republican bill. Alexander said he was part of a bi-partisan group that wants Congress and the White House to adopt the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group as law. He said it is Mr. Bush's best chance to get widespread support for any war strategy.

    "I think we need a new strategy," Alexander said. "I think most senators do and the country does and I wouldn't be surprised if the president does."

    Alexander said leaders from both sides of the aisle need to come together to find a solution to the Iraq issue.

    "If Harry Reid would play less politics and the president would be more flexible, we could have 60 votes in the Senate for the Baker-Hamilton recommendations," he said. "And the president could have a bipartisan strategy, and we could be sending a message to our troops, which is the most important message we could send, which is we are united in what believe you're over there to do."

    But, Hadley said Mr. Bush is sticking to his plan to take stock of progress in Iraq in September when General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker present their full report on Iraq's progress to Congress.

    "I think we will have had two additional months of our security strategy going forward," Hadley said. "Congress set a schedule which basically said, we need to do review in September. Everybody agrees. We'd like to put our policy there in a different place. Everybody agrees. Everybody also agrees that the starting point is to hear from our commanders on the ground."

    Hadley said the administration has an orderly process set out for reviewing whether its Iraq strategy is working and that should be allowed to play out.

    Hadley said the Bush administration is still pressing Iraqi lawmakers to cancel their month-long vacation in August. The White House, however, seems resigned to seeing the break go forward, and he joined other Bush aides in playing down its significance.

    "We'd like them to stay in session and work on this issue," Hadley said. "They are now going to stay in session in July. They're going to work a six-day week session. We want to continue them to work on this legislation."

    Hadley said work will continue outside the parliament through August on sectarian reconciliation and power-sharing.

    The parliament shortened its usual two-month break under pressure but that has not appeased critics. They say Iraqi political leaders should not take a vacation that U.S. troops fighting in the blistering heat of summer do not get.

    Candidates Bash Bush's Record On Race

    (AP) Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama on Thursday derided President Bush's commutation of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison term even as black men routinely serve time behind bars.

    All eight Democratic hopefuls and a lone Republican candidate, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, addressed the NAACP convention. The Democrats focused their criticism on the administration's record on race relations.

    "We know we have more work to do when Scooter Libby gets no prison time and a 21-year-old honor student, who hadn't even committed a felony, gets 10 years in prison," Obama said to loud cheers.

    Aides said Obama was referring to Genarlow Wilson, a Georgia man serving a 10-year prison sentence for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17. A judge last month ordered Wilson to be freed, but prosecutors are blocking the order.

    Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of lying and obstruction of justice in the CIA-leak case. He received a 30-month prison sentence, which Bush commuted last week.

    In their bid to woo black voters, a key party constituency, all the Democratic hopefuls shared the stage at the forum devoted to racial issues.

    Front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton predicted the forum would cover more issues of importance to the black community than the administration had in six years.

    "We have a president who does not see what you and I see. ... With your hard work, we will render the people that you and I see visible once again," the New York senator said. She cited "The Invisible Man," Ralph Ellison's famed novel of black alienation.

    John Edwards touted his commitment to fighting poverty, calling it "the cause of my life." Edwards will launch a tour Monday in New Orleans to spotlight the millions living in poverty.

    "We want America to see the other America," Edwards said. "That seems to be forgotten."

    While all the contenders were warmly received as they took their place onstage, Obama received a boisterous, sustained ovation.

    Tancredo said he accepted the invitation to speak because his message is for all Americans. A vociferous foe of illegal immigration, Tancredo said the wages of black workers suffer because of illegal workers.

    GOP Senators: Change Course On Iraq Now

    (CBS/AP) Several Republican senators told President Bush's top national security aide privately Wednesday that they did not want Mr. Bush to wait until September to change course in Iraq.

    The meeting that lawmakers had with national security adviser Stephen Hadley came as GOP Sens. Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel announced they would back Democratic legislation ordering combat to end next spring.

    CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports exclusively that a U.S. pullout would be extremely complicated, dangerous and would take two years if the military takes all its equipment out, according to a study recently presented to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Republican support for the war has steadily eroded in recent weeks as the White House prepared an interim progress report that found that the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has made little progress in meeting major targets of reform.

    Of the GOP lawmakers who say the U.S. should reduce its military role in Iraq, nearly all are up for re-election in 2008.

    "I'm hopeful they (the White House) change their minds," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

    Domenici and at least five other Republicans support a bill by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., that would adopt as U.S. policy the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report.

    The bipartisan panel, led by Republican James A. Baker III and Democrat Lee Hamilton, said the U.S. should hand off the combat mission to the Iraqis, bolster diplomatic efforts in the region and pave the way for a drawdown of troops by spring 2008.

    Domenici, who is expected to face voters next year, said he and other co-sponsors told Hadley the president shouldn't wait until September to adopt the bipartisan policy.

    "The only difference of opinion at the moment is the president wants to deal with the Baker-Hamilton recommendations in September," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., one of the first GOP co-sponsors.

    "I think he should do that today because it develops a long-term strategy for what happens in the surge," added Alexander, who also is up for re-election. "It would put him and Congress on the same path, which is what we definitely need."

    Members said Hadley did not indicate the White House would switch gears. Mr. Bush this week said he will not reconsider the military strategy in Iraq until Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander there, delivers his progress report in September.

    "He was not in a position to do anything other than say 'I hear you,'" Domenici said of Hadley.

    Other Republicans at the meeting did not call for immediate change, but offered tepid support for the current policy.

    Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota said he was seriously considering Salazar's legislation and remained gravely concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq.

    "I'm still in the same place, and I don't think there were any hearts or minds changed in there," Coleman said upon leaving the meeting.

    Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who also attended the meeting, is expected to call for a change in Iraq policy after Mr. Bush releases on Thursday that interim report on Baghdad's political progress.

    Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a staunch supporter of Mr. Bush's Iraq policies, said he and many others would stick behind the president. But "obviously everyone was concerned, and we're trying to figure out what the answer is," he said.

    GOP support has become crucial as the Senate opened debate on a $649 billion defense policy bill.

    Meanwhile, CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss reports seven Senate Republicans broke with the president Wednesday and voted with Democrats to consider an amendment by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., to require that troops returning from Iraq get more rest and training before being sent back.

    But with Republican leaders using a filibuster to block any Iraq amendments, it would have taken 60 votes to move forward and they fell four votes short, 56-41.

    The Senate is expected to vote next week on an amendment by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., that would order troop withdrawals to begin in 120 days and end all combat on April 30, 2008. The House plans to take up a similar measure on Thursday.

    Levin's amendment is not expected to survive and Mr. Bush has vowed to veto it if it does. But in a signal of growing unease with the war, it has picked up at least one new vote from Snowe of Maine.

    Snowe initially opposed setting a firm deadline, contending it would not make any sense to broadcast war plans to the enemy. But the senator, who is up for re-election next year, said she decided to switch her position because the situation has grown too dire.

    "Frankly, given the fact that the Iraqi government isn't prepared to change its own political direction, we should be prepared to change course with respect to our strategy," Snowe told reporters Tuesday.

    Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., also signed on as co-sponsors of the bill; both voted for a similar measure earlier this year.

    Hadley's visit to Capitol Hill came as the White House finalized a 23-page progress report on Iraq that concludes the government in Baghdad has made little progress in meeting reform goals laid down by Mr. Bush and Congress.

    The administration is likely to argue that some progress has been made in reducing the level of sectarian violence and militia control. Iraq also has established several, but not all, of the needed joint neighborhood security stations in Baghdad and has increased the number of capable Iraqi security units.

    But the report also is expected to concede that several major goals have not been met, including agreement on new Iraqi laws to allocate oil and gas resources and revenue and to address amnesty for former Baath Party members. White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the report will indicate whether there has been "progress at a satisfactory rate, or unsatisfactory rate, and in some cases, maybe mixed results on some of those benchmarks."

    Ex-Surgeon General: Bush Muzzled Me

    (CBS/AP) President Bush's most recent surgeon general accused the administration Tuesday of muzzling him for political reasons on hot-button health issues such as emergency contraception and abstinence-only education.

    Dr. Richard Carmona, the nation's 17th surgeon general, told lawmakers that all surgeons general have had to deal with politics but none more so than he.

    For example, he said he wasn't allowed to make a speech at the Special Olympics because it was viewed as benefiting a political opponent. However, he said was asked to speak at events designed to benefit Republican lawmakers.

    典he reality is that the nation's doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget, and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas,・said Carmona, who served from 2002 to 2006.

    Responding, the White House said Carmona was given the authority and had the obligation to be the leading voice for the health of all Americans.

    的t's disappointing to us if he failed to use his position to the fullest extent in advocating for policies he thought were in the best interests of the nation,・said Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto. 展e believe Dr. Carmona received the support necessary to carry out his mission.・

    Politicians trying to control the message is nothing new, reports CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. President Clinton axed Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders after she expressed liberal ideas about sex education in schools.

    Confirmation hearings are scheduled to be held Thursday for Dr. James. Holsinger Jr., the Kentucky cardiologist Bush nominated as the nation's 18th surgeon general. The nomination has been criticized by gay rights groups.

    Carmona testified Tuesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Also appearing were Drs. C. Everett Koop, who served as surgeon general from 1981-1889, and David Satcher, who served from 1998-2001.

    撤olitical interference with the work of the surgeon general appears to have reached a new level in this administration,・said committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

    Koop is probably the most recognized former surgeon general. He talked about AIDS as a public health issue rather than a moral issue, which won him many admirers and some critics. He said President Reagan was pressed to fire him every day, but Reagan would not interfere.

    Koop said that after he left office he had more access to the secretary of Health and Human Services than his successor, Satcher, and that embarrassed him. 泥r. Carmona was treated with even less respect than Dr. Satcher,・Koop said.

    A report condemning secondhand smoke was a hallmark of Carmona's tenure.

    Another report, on global health challenges, was never released after the administration demanded changes that he refused to make, Carmona said.

    的 was told this would be a political document or you're not going to release it.・Carmona said. 的 said it can't be a political document because the surgeon general never releases political documents. I release scientific documents that will help our elected officials and the citizens understand the complex world we live in and what their responsibilities are.・

    He refused to identify the officials who sought the changes.

    Carmona said he believed the surgeon general should show leadership on health issues. But his speeches were edited by political appointees, and he was told not to talk about certain issues. For example, he supported comprehensive sex education that would include abstinence in the curriculum, rather than focusing solely on abstinence.

    滴owever, there was already a policy in place that didn't want to hear the science, but wanted to quote, unquote preach abstinence, which I felt was scientifically incorrect,・Carmona said.

    Bush Says Dems In Congress Are Failing

    President Bush, Laura Bush, White House, July 6, 2007

    (AP) President Bush accused Democratic lawmakers on Saturday of being unable to live up to their duties, citing Congress' inability to pass legislation to fund the federal government.

    "Democrats are failing in their responsibility to make tough decisions and spend the people's money wisely," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "This moment is a test."

    The White House has said the failure of a broad immigration overhaul was proof that Democratic-controlled Capitol Hill cannot take on major issues. "We saw this with immigration, and we're seeing it with some other issues where Congress is having an inability to take on major challenges," said spokesman Tony Fratto.

    The main reason the immigration measure died, however, was staunch opposition from Bush's own base ・conservatives. The president could not turn around members of his own party despite weeks of intense effort.

    The immigration bill was the top item on Bush's domestic agenda. With its demise, Bush was left to focus on the annual appropriations process and reining in federal spending.

    Twelve annual spending bills dole out approximately one-third of the federal budget. They must be passed each year by Congress, before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, but lawmakers began considering this year's batch just in mid-June. The House has passed half and the full Senate has not yet taken up any.

    "Democrats have a chance to prove they are for open and transparent government by working to complete each spending bill independently and on time," Bush said. "I urge Democrats in Congress to step forward now and pass these bills one at a time. "

    Democratic leaders say they are behind because an emergency spending measure funding the war in Iraq came first. They also had to pass an omnibus measure cleaning up last year's appropriations mess. Then, the Republicans who then controlled Congress failed to pass into law a single spending bill for domestic agencies save the Homeland Security Department ・a situation that brought little complaint from Bush.

    With the Senate and House now in Democratic hands, this year's bills are producing skirmishes with the White House that also are causing delays. Almost every domestic bill already has attracted a veto threat because it exceeds Bush's proposed budget in certain areas.

    All told, Democrats plan spending increases for annual agency budgets of about $23 billion above the White House budget request. Bush put it in terms of a five-year outlook, and said their budget plan would be $205 billion bigger than his over that period, and would include "the largest tax increase in history" by allowing some of his tax cuts to expire as planned.

    The president said Democrats are embracing "the failed tax-and-spend policies of the past," and vowed to stand firm for fiscal restraint. Republican lawmakers have pledged to support him and sustain any vetoes.

    "No nation has ever taxed and spent its way to prosperity," Bush said. "And I have made it clear that I will veto any attempt to take America down this road."

    The president also applauded a new jobs report, which showed employers adding 132,000 jobs, paychecks growing solidly and the unemployment rate staying at a low 4.5 percent in June.

    Bush said the evidence that the once listless economy is regaining energy is a result of his insistence on lowering taxes and spending.

    Man Arrested Outside Obama's Hotel

    (AP) A man with a large knife was arrested Wednesday outside presidential hopeful Barack Obama's hotel in southeast Iowa, police said.

    Davit Zakaryan, 24, was searched and apprehended after Obama's security crew allegedly saw him loitering outside a Fairfield Inn in Ottumwa before the Illinois senator was about to leave for a busy day of campaigning.

    Police said they did not know why Zakaryan was outside the hotel with the knife, and they cautioned against making any assumptions until he was questioned further.

    "This is not an earth-shattering" arrest, Lt. Mike McDonough of the Ottumwa Police Department said. "He made no threats toward the senator."

    Zakaryan was arrested after 8:30 a.m. and charged with possessing an illegal weapon and driving without a license. Police said the knife was longer than 8 inches, which exceeds the state limit. Zakaryan was being held Wednesday night at the Wapello County Jail on a $6,825 bond. He was to be arraigned Thursday morning.

    Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama's Iowa office, said he was not familiar with the specifics of the arrest, but complimented police and Secret Service for their efforts.

    McDonough said Obama's security crew had been keeping an eye on Zakaryan because they thought his car looked familiar and may have been at another of Obama's campaign stops. After Zakaryan pulled the car near the hotel, the agents asked police to question him. That's when they found the knife inside the car, McDonough said.

    McDonough said the identification card Zakaryan gave them showed he was from Ohio, but they weren't sure whether the ID was valid. McDonough said he was not sure what Ohio city was listed on the card.

    Obama, a Democrat, has spent much of his time campaigning in Iowa the past few months, trying to build support for the state's leadoff caucuses in January. In May, Secret Service announced it would provide protection for Obama while he was campaigning.

    Bill: "Husbands For Hillary," That's Me

    Presidential candidates are nearly as hard to miss as American flags in Iowa this week and the biggest fireworks are being delivered by New York Senator Hillary Clinton and her biggest political ally -- her husband. For the first time in the 2008 presidential campaign, former President Bill Clinton appeared at a rally alongside his spouse Monday night.

    The sight of a former two-term president actively participating in his party's presidential primary is historic in its own right but the campaign left no doubt as to who is getting top billing this time around.

    It was the Hillary and Bill show at the Iowa state fairgrounds, something that Mr. Clinton pointed out right away by drawing attention to some of the signs in the crowd, saying, "There's one guy in the back over there that represents a group I belong to - it says 'Husbands for Hillary.'"

    Bill Clinton's role, as advertised in advance by campaign aides, was to tout his wife's life story and years of involvement in public service.

    In keeping with the slogan of this week's Iowa tour, "Ready for change, ready to lead," the former president emphasized the quality that the Clinton campaign repeats like a mantra ・experience. Announcing he is entering into his 40th year of voting eligibility, Mr. Clinton proclaimed his wife "the best qualified non-incumbent I have ever had a chance to vote for president."

    It was a not-so-subtle barb aimed directly at the Democrat emerging as the greatest threat to Clinton's nomination: Barack Obama. The first term Illinois senator's campaign surprised many this week by announcing they had outpaced Clinton by nearly $10 million in primary contributions in the second three months of this year.

    Obama took in $31 million that can be used in next year's primary contests, compared to $21 million collected by the Clinton campaign. The New York Senator raised about $5 million more that cannot be spent before a general election campaign.

    The former president took pains to avoid criticism of his wife's primary opponents, telling the large crowd that "as a Democrat, I love this election, because I don't have to be against anybody. I like the other people running for the nomination."

    But he left no doubt as to which candidate he feels is the right person for the job. Mr. Clinton, famous for his stem-winding abilities on the trail, also kept his remarks brief, and quickly sat down to listen to the candidate.

    Hillary Clinton returned to the theme of experience after touching on the issues atop the Democratic agenda ・universal health care, energy policy, education and the war in Iraq. While acknowledging her pride in being the most credible woman ever to seek the nation's highest office, Clinton insisted, "I am not running as a woman, I am running because I believe I am the best qualified and experienced person."

    Iraq, and Clinton's past support for the war, has been a thorn in the campaign's side, particularly in Iowa where party activists have long opposed it. Former North Carolina senator John Edwards, who finished second in the 2004 Iowa caucuses, has made his opposition to the war a central issue in his campaign and has led in most polls taken in the state.

    Bush Defends Military Buildup In Iraq

    President George W. Bush, Oval Office, June 22, 2007

    (AP) President Bush, who faces mounting congressional pressure to end the war, called Saturday for patience as U.S. forces conduct stepped-up operations in Iraq.

    "We're still at the beginning of this offensive, but we're seeing some hopeful signs," Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address, in which he likened U.S. troops deployed around the globe to the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

    "We're engaging the enemy, and killing or capturing hundreds," said Mr. Bush, who is losing GOP support for his decision in January to send 30,000 extra troops to Iraq to secure Baghdad and Anbar.

    The president said two senior al Qaeda leaders were killed this week north of Baghdad and U.S. troops are finding arms caches at more than three times the rate of a year ago. Despite an upward trend in May, sectarian murders in the Iraqi capital are down from January, Bush said.

    He said the last of the U.S. reinforcements just arrived in Iraq earlier this month.

    The White House thought it had until September, when military commanders are to give an assessment of Iraq. But most senators now believe troops should start coming home within the next few months, and House Republicans are calling to revive the independent Iraq Study Group to give the nation new options.

    "The fight in Iraq has been tough, and it will remain difficult," Mr. Bush said.

    He said the Fourth of July on Wednesday will be an opportunity to remember the nation's founders as well as the more than 3,568 men and women of the U.S. military who have died in the Iraq war.

    "We remember the spirit of liberty that led men from 13 different colonies to gather in Philadelphia and pen the Declaration of Independence," said Bush, who plans to spend Independence Day with the West Virginia Air National Guard in Martinsburg, W.Va.

    "Today, a new generation of Americans has stepped forward and volunteered to defend the ideals of our nation's founding. ... They've helped bring freedom to the Iraqi people," he said. "They've helped make Americans more secure. We will not forget their sacrifice."

    Also today, the Senate Democratic leader said some Republicans are "saying the right things on Iraq," but he wants them to vote the right way as well.

    In this week's Democratic radio message, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is urging GOP lawmakers to "put partisan politics aside" and vote with the Democrats on the upcoming defense bill.

    The Nevada Democrat also accused Republicans of blocking ethics reform and the enactment of 9/11 Commission recommendations.

    Reid listed items on his party's agenda that have been able to move forward, like funding Gulf Coast recovery as part of the Iraq spending bill. He also noted successful efforts to raise the minimum wage, provide disaster relief for farmers and fund a health insurance program for low-income children.

    In Reid's words, "the progress we've made has not come easy."

    Do Bush Defeats Signal End Of Influence?

    (CBS) President Bush was in no mood for questions about his stunning defeat on immigration.

    It's not just that this is a clear rebuke of his confident prediction 2ス weeks ago ...

    "I believe we can get it done," he said. "I'll see you at the bill signing."

    ... It's that the defeat was sealed by his own party. After personally lobbying many Republicans, more than three dozen defected.

    Immigration was Mr. Bush's signature domestic issue, and he used whatever remaining political capital he had left. Remember those hot and sweaty trips to the Southwest so he could patrol the border?

    That's exactly why historians will look back on this as a defining day in the Bush presidency, CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

    CBS News Poll: Immigration
    "The failure of the immigration bill means that George Bush is beyond being a lame-duck president," says CBS News analyst Douglas Brinkley. "He's a 'dead-duck' president."

    And it's not just immigration. When the White House claimed executive privilege today to fight congressional subpoenas in the U.S. Attorney firings investigation, a top Republican complained the White House was just continuing to protect the president's embattled attorney general.

    "And while the investigation is lagging, Attorney General Gonzalez continues to serve. But as long as he continues to serve, the department is in disarray," Sen. Arlen Spector, R-Pa., said.

    Add to that this week's high-profile Republican deflections about the war, which sent national security adviser Steven Hadley to Capitol Hill to see if he could contain the damage.

    "When people in your own party turn on you when you're a president is when your policies crumble," says Brinkley.

    One GOP insider told Axelrod today: "When it comes to the president's influence, it's 'how low can you go.' If the president's approval ratings were just at traditional lows, things might be different. They're not. They're at historic lows. So now it's every man for himself.

    Coulter Attacks Give Edwards A Boost

    (AP) Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said Wednesday that conservative author Ann Coulter's attacks are personally hurtful and it's important that he respond to them.

    While Edwards made his first comments to The Associated Press in response to Coulter's suggestion that she wished he would be "killed in a terrorist assassination plot," his campaign was also using her remarks to bring in donations in the final week before his next fundraising deadline.

    It's not the first time Coulter has given the Edwards campaign a financial boost. In March, she called Edwards a "faggot" and the campaign used video of the comment to help raise $300,000 before the end of the first quarter.

    The campaign has sent two e-mails to supporters this week, asking them to send donations to defy her attacks and help Edwards ・a former North Carolina senator ・meet his goal of raising $9 million in the second quarter ending Saturday. The first e-mail from campaign adviser Joe Trippi showed a clip of Coulter on ABC's "Good Morning America," where she said Monday that she wished Edwards would be killed by terrorists.

    When Coulter appeared Tuesday on MSNBC's "Hardball," Elizabeth Edwards called in to ask Coulter to stop making personal attacks on her husband. The exchanged deteriorated, with Coulter shouting over Mrs. Edwards and demanding that the campaign stop using her name to raise money if they want her to stop personal attacks.

    Mrs. Edwards followed up with an e-mail to supporters Wednesday morning that included a clip of their exchange and a donation request. The campaign said they raised more money this week than from any previous e-mail campaign, but declined to give a total.

    "I think when they engage in these attacks and use the language of hate, it's very important to stand up," Edwards said. "What happens if you are silent when this kind of hateful language is used ・not just by her, but by anyone ・hate gets a foothold."

    Edwards pointed out that Coulter's attacks haven't been limited to him, but also included his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. Coulter has made fun of Hillary Rodham Clinton's legs and compared Barack Obama to terrorists because his middle name is Hussein.

    "What she said about Senator Clinton and Senator Obama is outrageous," Edwards said. "And somebody has to stand up when she makes these kind of attacks."

    CIA details Cold War skulduggery

    Anti-Vietnam war protester in Chicago, 1968

    The CIA has made public the details of its illicit Cold-War-era activities, including spy plots, assassination attempts and experiments with drugs.

    Documents declassified on its website include plans to use Mafia help to kill Cuba's Communist leader Fidel Castro.

    They reveal the extent to which the CIA spied on US journalists and dissidents and on the Soviet Union.

    They are part of a report commissioned by a former CIA chief in 1973 in response to the Watergate scandal.

    Press reports from the period had implicated the CIA in a break-in which took place at Democratic Party offices at the Watergate Hotel.

    A newspaper investigation into the burglary eventually led to the downfall of the Republican President, Richard Nixon.

    The spy agency's former director, James Schlesinger, responded by ordering all "senior operating officials" to report on all activities, past and present, "which might be construed to be outside the legislative charter of this agency".

    The CIA is barred by law from conducting spy activities within the US.

    'Unflattering history'

    CIA officers in service in 1973 largely used their memory to compile the 693-page report for Mr Schlesinger.

    The abuses and illicit activities listed within date from the 1950s to the 1970s.

    Fidel Castro (left) and Nikita Khruschev (right) The documents were initially referred to as "skeletons" by Mr Schlesinger's successor at the CIA, William Colby. They were later nicknamed the "family jewels" and have been referred to as such ever since.

    Much of the information contained within them was already known.

    Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed in the New York Times newspaper in 1974 that the CIA had been spying on anti-war dissidents and civil rights campaigners.

    However, the documents declassified on Tuesday provide a more comprehensive account of events.

    Last week, CIA chief Michael Hayden announced the decision to declassify the records, saying the documents were "unflattering but part of CIA history".

    The documents detail assassination plots, domestic spying, wiretapping, and kidnapping.

    The incidents include:

    • the confinement of a Soviet KGB defector, Yuriy Ivanovich Nosenko, in the mid-1960s
    • attempts to use a suspected Mafia mobster, Johnny Roselli, in a plot to assassinate Cuba's Fidel Castro
    • the wiretapping and surveillance of journalists, including in 1972 columnist Jack Anderson who broke a string of scandals
    • the testing of hallucinogens such as LSD on unsuspecting citizens

    Among the documents is a request in 1972 for someone "who was accomplished at picking locks" who might be retiring or resigning from the agency.

    'Soviet succession'

    Another set of documents, also just declassified, is known as the CAESAR-POLO-ESAU papers.

    This is an 11,000-page analysis, done between 1953 and 1973, on Soviet and Chinese internal politics and Sino-Soviet relations.

    Among the papers are an analysis of the Soviet leadership completed some four months after the death of Josef Stalin in 1953.

    The CIA's report, stamped "Top Secret", said the Soviets carried out a hasty shake-up of top posts to head off possible "panic and disarray" following Stalin's death.

    "It is strongly suggested that the leaders in this moment of crisis had moved swiftly to show their unity and to gird themselves for any battle that might be coming from inside and out," the CIA report said.

    Immigration Deal Irks Some Kennedy Allies

    (AP) Months of tumultuous negotiations with the White House and GOP allies have brought the Senate's liberal lion, Edward M. Kennedy, to the brink of passing a bill to legalize up to 12 million unlawful immigrants.

    But his concessions to get there have alienated liberals who in the past have counted him as their strongest champion. A showdown test vote is scheduled Tuesday, and the Senate could pass ・or reject ・the bill by week's end.

    Traditional Kennedy allies are mystified and angry at the Massachusetts senator's willingness to accept Republican-backed measures such as subjecting illegal immigrants to steep fines and trips home, separating immigrants from relatives and letting new guest workers stay only for short periods of time with little chance of citizenship.

    "I think that in his heart, he's where I'm at, but he wants to see a deal move forward and he's willing to take certain steps that I might not be willing to take," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who abandoned the deal just before it was announced because it scrapped many immigrants' ability to come to the U.S. based solely on family ties.

    "In the pursuit of moving us along, he's probably swallowed hard on some things that he himself would not have accepted" otherwise, Menendez added.

    It's a familiar spot for Kennedy, 75, whose standing as a liberal firebrand during his 45 years in the Senate belies his history of partnering with Republicans on major domestic agenda items.

    He's done so twice before with President Bush, on the No Child Left Behind education law and a broad Medicare prescription drug overhaul. In both cases, Kennedy was accused by liberals of compromising too much in the interests of a deal.

    "You can hold to rigid positions in the United States Senate ・and I respect that ・and get nothing done, or you can try and find common ground," Kennedy said in an interview with The Associated Press.

    He regards an immigration overhaul as the civil rights imperative of the 21st century, and sees the same legacies of prejudice and discrimination standing in the way. Legalizing 12 million unlawful immigrants "is worth the fight," Kennedy said.

    Kennedy's pragmatic history and his expertise ・he maneuvered a broad immigration overhaul through the Senate in 1965, during his second term ・has earned him Bush's trust.

    "Senator Kennedy is one of the best legislative senators there is. He can get the job done. I know firsthand, because we reformed our education system," Bush said at a March news conference in Mexico.

    Some activists who revere Kennedy privately voice a sense of betrayal at the lengths to which he has been willing to go in search of a deal.

    The AFL-CIO condemned the bill last week, and its leaders have harsh words for the senator they trusted to shepherd a historic immigration measure.

    "I am angry," said Ed Sullivan, president of the labor federation's building and construction trades department, and a Massachusetts native who describes Kennedy as a "good friend." "We can't understand how our senators would support this."

    Sullivan said Kennedy's intentions were good, but his pragmatism drew him into a bad deal.

    "I think he's locked in. He's a legislator that likes to pass legislation," Sullivan said.

    In early March, representatives of liberal groups angrily cautioned Kennedy against starting negotiations with Bush's team and a group of senators led by conservative Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., on an immigration compromise that could attract GOP support. Kennedy contended it was the only way to craft a bill that would survive.

    Months later, just before Kennedy went before news cameras to announce his breakthrough immigration deal with Republicans and the White House, some of them complained he had agreed to a shabby bargain that would rip families apart and sentence millions more immigrants to exploitation from abusive employers.

    "We were saying, 'Senator, we think you're going too far,"' said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. "He told us, 'You're not going far enough. If you want to get this done, you've got to get real. I've been around this place 40 years. This is the best we can do. If you want to get it done, follow me."'

    He may have sounded unshakable, but Kennedy admits to some moments of doubt during the roller coaster process of crafting the bill.

    "Of course there are times when we really wonder whether it continues to make sense to engage in this," Kennedy said. "It's a battle."

    Ultimately, though, he said, "I believe in the legislation. The alternative to this is nothing, and that's, I think, completely unacceptable."

    Kennedy's involvement has made the immigration deal more difficult for some Republicans to stomach. Conservative critics of the plan brand it the "Kennedy-Bush amnesty" program, and invoke the Massachusetts senator's name to paint it as a far-left solution.

    Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., has weathered bitter criticism back home for supporting the measure. NumbersUSA, an anti-immigration group, ran ads last week that juxtaposed Lott's picture next to Kennedy's and said Lott had "joined with Ted Kennedy in strong-arming senators to support amnesty for millions of illegals, many of whom have already taken jobs from Mississippi workers."

    Kyl called working with Kennedy "a real education."

    "He's a tough bargainer. He's a real strong advocate for some points of view with which I disagree, but I have found him to be a man of his word, and on the emotional and difficult issue of immigration reform, that's a big deal," Kyl said.

    The Third Party Factor

    (CBS) New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg fueled speculation that he might run for president after he quit the Republican Party to become an independent last week.

    If he runs for president ・something he said he has no plans to do ・his candidacy could greatly affect the outcome of the 2008 election.

    The last time there was an equally visible third party candidate was in 1992 when billionaire Ross Perot ran. He won 19 percent of the vote, taking votes away from President George H. W. Bush and helping President Bill Clinton win.

    Ed Rollins, political director for President Ronald Reagan and co-manager of Perot's 1992 campaign, said millions of voters were eager to learn about an alternative to the Republicans and Democrats.

    "I don't think it's a bad thing to have someone else in the process," Rollins told Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer. "And I certainly don't think it's a bad thing to have someone like Mike Bloomberg, who can self-fund and basically talk about major issues bothering voters in this country. And more and more Americans today, particularly young people, haven't ・aren't choosing either party. They say they're an independent, and they want to stay an independent, and they want independent choices."

    Some are already pushing for an alternate candidate. Unity08 is a group that is dedicated to getting a third-party candidate on the ballot in all 50 states. Actor Sam Waterston, the group's spokesperson, said that Unity08 was hoping appeal to voters disenchanted with both Republicans and Democrats.

    "The basic inspiration for Unity08 is the fact that the system itself for choosing our leaders is broken, and everybody knows it," he said. "This presidential campaign is unlike any in almost 100 years, it's very, very open ・so there's a very large opportunity."

    Waterston cited a new Newsweek poll that 57 percent say the two-party system does not do a good job addressing issues important to Americans.

    When asked if he thought Bloomberg would be a good candidate for his party's ticket, Waterston said the voters of Unity08 would choose who should represent them but that the New York mayor shared many of the same values.

    "It is one of the names that has been talked about in regard to Unity08," Waterston said. "It seems to me that it's very telling about the condition of the process right now that he would choose to become an independent, having tried being a Democrat, and having tried being a Republican."

    The Newsweek poll, however, found that, if Americans want a third party candidate, Bloomberg may not be the one. Sixty-five percent said that if Bloomberg runs they are "not too likely" or "not at all likely" to vote for him.

    If Bloomberg were to launch a presidential campaign, which party of candidate would he take the most votes from?

    "There's no question the Republicans and Rudy Giuliani, in particular, would be hurt most by the entry of Mike Bloomberg," said former Democratic New York Mayor Ed Koch, who supports Sen. Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House.

    Koch said all the talk about Bloomberg has already illuminated former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's weaknesses.

    "Rudy Giuliani is already doing what he always does," Koch said. "He becomes angry and upset and mean-spirited. He's already attacked Bloomberg by saying, 'What do you mean you ran the city like a business? I did that.'"

    Rollins said a Bloomberg candidacy could hurt the entire Republican party.

    "We're down to about 25 percent self-identified Republicans," he said. "We don't want a candidate to take away those 14 or 15 points that are probably more moderate Republicans, and I think to a certain extent a Bloomberg can do that."

    John Harris of, however, said that Bloomberg ・or another third party candidate ・might hurt the Democrats more than Republicans.

    "The larger environment right now overwhelmingly favors Democrats ・unpopular war, unpopular president, increasingly unpopular party on the Republican side," Harris said. "A Bloomberg candidacy or some other third party candidacy lends a big sort of volatile, unpredictable factor in that. So I'd have to say it's the Democrats who shouldn't want that."

    Forget Votes, Now They're Running For Cash

    (AP) Republican John McCain and Democrat John Edwards are in danger of losing their place among the leading presidential contenders if their spring fundraising falls too short of earlier totals.

    Next weekend marks the end of the latest fundraising period, covering April through June, and the new finance reports will set a benchmark by which to measure the campaigns. Candidates in the crowded field raised a combined $133.5 million over the first three months of the year.

    The latest numbers could further cement Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., as the masters of political money. In the January-March period, those two White House hopefuls combined to raise more than $50 million; each is believed on track to match or exceed their first-quarter total.

    For Republicans, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are at the top of the money race. But the picture is blurred by the potential entry Fred Thompson, the actor and former senator from Tennessee.

    A look at the fundraising picture ahead of the latest reporting period, which ends June 30:

    McCain's stance in support of President Bush's immigration policies has hurt his fundraising. But the Arizona senator has packed his schedule with an average of more than one fundraiser a day this month in hopes of approaching the $13.6 million he raised in the first quarter.

    Edwards' campaign says he will fall $5 million short of his $14 million first-quarter total. On Friday, the former North Carolina senator and 2004 vice presidential nominee sent an appeal to donors that sets a $9 million goal for April through June. While that message probably is an attempt lower expectations, no one disputes that Edwards will fail to keep pace with the earlier total.

    Clinton's campaign promises to match her $26 million haul from the first quarter. She is ending the current reporting period with fundraisers in Chicago, New York and Miami. On Sunday, she planned a large gathering of Indian-American supporters and then a more intimate event hosted by Charles Dolan, the founder and chairman of Cablevision Systems Corp., a New York area cable TV provider. The event of this upcoming week is on Tuesday in New York, hosted by billionaire Warren Buffet and a who's who of investment bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity investors. They include Morgan Stanley's chief executive, John Mack, a fundraiser for President Bush in 2004.

    Obama, who raised $25.7 million from January through March, could surpass that total, though aides say they have no chance of beating Clinton. Obama amassed a stunning list of 104,000 donors in the first three months and since has expanded that base. Buffet has offered to raise money for Obama, too, and is expected to do an event for him soon, but not this month.

    Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, led all Republicans with $20 million last quarter. He might fall short of that tally as the campaign tries to expand its list of 30,000 donors from the first quarter. On Sunday, Romney planned to rent Fenway Park for a barbecue for donors. Aides expected to take in at least $1 million from an event Monday at the TD Banknorth Garden, where the Boston Bruins and Celtics play. A similar fundraiser in January amassed more than $6 million.

    Giuliani, who raised $16.1 million last quarter, is expected to be in the same range this time. The former New York City mayor is ending the month with several fundraisers in California.

    It would be difficult ・but not impossible, some Democrats say ・for either Clinton or Obama to match Bush's second-quarter mark of $35 million in 2003 as he marched unopposed to the Republican nomination.

    Clinton "has locked down the institutional Democratic Party money," said Democratic strategist Anita Dunn, who is not aligned with a candidate in the 2008 race. "And Obama is proving there is actually a universe out there, beyond that, and a very potent one."

    Edwards' aides say they are satisfied raising $9 million, with a goal of $40 million by the Iowa caucuses, the leadoff state, in January.

    The $14 million that Edwards raised early this year doubled the amount he took in during the comparable period in 2003, when he made his first presidential bid. The $9 million target set by the campaign is twice the amount Edwards raised in the second quarter of 2003.

    "This is not about outraising our opponents in a meaningless fundraising arms race or what any of the other campaigns are doing around us," said Edwards' spokesman, Eric Schultz. "This is about executing our plan, which is raising enough money to push our message in the critical early states, and building strong operations around the country."

    But Edwards will have to show progress to keep his donors involved.

    He had led in polls in Iowa, but those surveys have tightened. What's more, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who raised $6.2 million last quarter, could surpass that total and draw within striking distance of Edwards. That would vault Richardson's standing in the contest at Edwards' expense.

    Among Republicans, the candidate with the most at stake is McCain. He began the year as the GOP front-runner, yet now trails in national and state polls.

    He recast his money operation after his third-place finish in the January-March period. But just as he was stepping up his effort, the Senate began to debate changes in immigration law. In the Republican field, McCain is the only candidate who supports the legislation, which conservatives have panned.

    Over the years, McCain has taken policy positions that, at times, have been in conflict with his own party. A spokesman, Brian Jones, acknowledged that the senator's stands "present some challenges in terms of fundraising."

    "You have to work harder for the dollars," Jones said.

    Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who is not involved in the presidential contest, said he believes McCain's campaign is "hanging by the fingertips." But he said that even if McCain stumbles, he has a chance to recover.

    "John McCain has the political capital with the media that before they write him off they will give him the benefit of the doubt," he said.

    Jones dismissed any suggestion of impending gloom: "We will have the resources necessary to communicate John McCain's message. There is nothing in this campaign that we have not been able to do for lack of funds."

    Romney Staff Involved In 2 Investigations

    (AP) The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office has opened an investigation into whether presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's staff might have made an illegal traffic stop, the same day a group of conservative activists with a connection to rival Sen. John McCain complained Thursday.

    A Romney campaign aide is also under investigation by police in Massachusetts for allegedly impersonating a state trooper, according to a published report.

    The aide, Jay Garrity, allegedly called a Wilmington, Mass., company on a cell phone last month and threatened to cite the driver of a company van for driving erratically in the Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston, according to a story in Friday's Boston Globe.

    In a recorded phone call to the plumbing company, a man identifies himself as "Trooper Garrity with the Massachusetts State Police," according to the newspaper, which obtained a copy of the tape. There is no Trooper Garrity at the state police barracks that patrols the tunnel, a state police spokesman said.

    Garrity was not working for the Romney campaign the day of the alleged call, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said.

    A spokesman for the Suffolk District Attorney confirmed that there is an investigation into the phone call.

    In the New Hampshire incident, ConserveNH President Paul Nagy wrote a letter to Attorney General Kelly Ayotte asking her to check if Romney aides illegally stopped a New York Times reporter, checked his license plate against a database and overstepped their role.

    "We want attention to the indiscretion," said Nagy, who said he is not supporting a candidate. "I think there is a bunch of arrogance involved in this. We just don't do that to guests when they visit our state during the presidential primary season."

    One of ConserveNH's founder, Patrick Hynes, works for McCain's political action committee, Straight Talk America.

    Nagy said the letter was sent independently of the McCain campaign and said he was unaware that Hynes is on McCain's payroll.

    "I know nothing about that. I could not tell you who any of the members of the board are supporting," said Nagy, who is a critic of McCain's immigration plan.

    McCain's New Hampshire spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker denied any connection between the campaign and the letter.

    Romney's campaign on Wednesday denied a report that aides pulled over Times reporter Mark Leibovich, who was trailing the former Massachusetts governor's caravan in New Hampshire, checked his license plates and told him to leave.

    "I can confirm that we were asked to look into the matter," said Jane Young, chief of the criminal justice bureau at the Attorney General's Office. "We are officially looking into the matter."

    Romney does not have state-provided protection or a Secret Service detail. However, he does travel between appearances in a motorcade of black sport utility vehicles, and his aides wear earpieces.

    New Hampshire law does not allow private citizens to access to license plate databases, nor allow them to pull over fellow citizens.

    Romney spokesman Matt Rhoades said the campaign did not stop Leibovich and did not run the license plate.

    Romney's campaign said the group became lost on back roads after a May 29 stop at Harvey's Bakery in Dover. A construction detour confused them, the cars stopped, and the staffer walked back to chat with the unknown car.

    Will NYC Mayors Rivalry Go National?

    (CBS) Michael Bloomberg's repeated denials are doing nothing to quell the assumption that he is laying the foundations of a possible presidential run. Bloomberg's decision on whether to mount a third-party or independent campaign may be heavily influenced by his predecessor as mayor of New York ・Rudy Giuliani.

    When he first ran for mayor in 2001, it was Giuliani's endorsement that gave Bloomberg the boost he needed to win.

    Though the two men continue to speak highly of one another in public, Giuliani said he was "disappointed" at Bloomberg's decision to leave the Republican Party.

    For his part, Bloomberg has nixed some of Giuliani's most prized city development projects and has recently made some not-so-subtle allusions to his disdain for having to deal with the budget deficit Giuliani left behind as mayor, The New York Times reports.

    Even before 9/11 raised Giuliani's toughness quotient to near-superhero status, Giuliani was best-known for his no-nonsense attitude and uncompromising position against crime. Bloomberg shares Giuliani's bluntness trait that can be deadly if mishandled on the campaign trail.

    "It's not about charm because he doesn't quite qualify on that front," Republican political strategist Ed Rollins said of Bloomberg. "It's about competence, and that's what he's going to make his campaign about."

    Giuliani continues to lead among Republican candidates in national polls ・but in New York City, it's a different story.

    A May New York Daily News poll found that New Yorkers think Bloomberg is a better mayor than Giuliani was, and they prefer the sound of "President Bloomberg" to "President Giuliani."

    There is precedent for a New Yorker vs. New Yorker presidential election. In 1944, FDR won a fourth term by defeating Thomas Dewey, who was the state's governor at the time.

    But if two is an acceptable number of Emerald State candidates, could three be too many?

    If Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Giuliani win their respective nominations and Bloomberg enters the race, the 2008 campaign would become a three-way contest among Yankees fans.

    That might raise some eyebrows in the other 49 states, but CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield says it might not be such a big deal after all.

    "New York City used to be the whipping boy of about half the country in terms of its politics [and] in terms of its culture, Greenfield said. "I think the fact that New York is now the safest big city in America and the fact that Michael Bloomberg really has governed as a nonpartisan makes the whole New York issue in national politics a lot different than it would have been say 20 years ago."

    Bloomberg enjoys the luxury of not having to make up his mind until after the chaotic primary season. But if Giuliani and Clinton win their respective nominations, it might be difficult for him to enter the race, not only because of the "New York overload" issue, but also since it could be more difficult for him to carve out a big enough slice of the political center against two candidates who are considered centrists on many issues.

    But New Yorkers can still dream, can't they?

    "Just the idea of three presidential candidates vying to see who gets to be the first to serve bagels and lox on a Sunday ・that alone might be worth seeing all these folks in the race,"

    Giuliani Regrets Joining Iraq Study Group

    Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani speaks to members of the Republican Party of Virginia in Vienna, Va.

    (AP) Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday it was a mistake for him to join the Iraq Study Group, on which he lasted just two months and failed to show for any official meetings.

    The former New York mayor has tried to tamp down criticism in recent days after Newsday reported that Giuliani was a no-show for two of the group's meetings and instead attended paid public appearances.

    "I thought it would work, but then after a month or two I realized the idea that I was possibly going to run for president would be inconsistent with that," Giuliani said during a campaign stop in Iowa.

    Giuliani said the main reason he quit was that it "didn't seem that I would really be able to keep the thing focused on a bipartisan, nonpolitical resolution."

    The group was headed by James A. Baker III, secretary of state under the first President Bush and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana. Among its members were former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese III, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and one-time Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta.

    The group issued an unanimous report calling for a gradual troop pullback in Iraq without setting firm timetables and more regional diplomacy. Its bipartisan work was hailed by members of both parties.

    Giuliani, who often speaks of his leadership skills, said he decided the group was the wrong place for him.

    的t was a mistake because I had an active political career that could interfere with the way in which the recommendations of the commission would be viewed,・he said. All of the other members of the commission have had distinguished public careers, but none of them were prospective candidates for office.・

    Giuliani campaigned in Iowa for the first time since announcing that he would skip the August straw poll, an early test of political strength. His appearance came after a series of setbacks and surprises prompted reporters' questions that overshadowed his speech on fiscal conservatism.

    The chairman of Giuliani's campaign in South Carolina, Thomas Ravenel, was indicted on cocaine charges. Giuliani named former state GOP chairman Barry Wynn as a replacement.

    "Any federal indictment is a very serious case," Giuliani said. "I don't know anything about it. There's no light I can shed on it. He stepped down as having anything to do with the campaign."

    Giuliani also faced questions about his New York successor, Michael Bloomberg, who announced that he had switched his party status from Republican to unaffiliated, increasing speculation that he would run for president as an independent.

    "I like Mike very much," Giuliani said. "I am disappointed that he left the Republican Party. I still respect what he has done as mayor."

    Pressed about the prospect of a Bloomberg candidacy, Giuliani said: "He says he's not running, so I've got to take him at his word. If he does run, he has every right to do it."

    Giuliani has campaigned in Iowa fewer times than the other GOP contenders. Though he leads in some national polls, a new survey in Iowa showed him trailing rival Mitt Romney and running about even with unannounced candidate Fred Thompson.

    "We can compete here realistically," Giuliani said. "We haven't spent a lot of time here because we've been spending a lot of time putting it together. Once we do spend a lot of time here, I think you are going to see those polls change quite dramatically."

    Democrats Court Anti-War Crowd

    (AP) A trio of Democratic presidential candidates appealed to anti-war passions that run deep in their party Tuesday, with each portraying himself as most strongly against the war in Iraq.

    In separate speeches before liberal activists, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards each stressed differences that set them apart in a field of Democratic White House aspirants who say they would bring U.S. troops home.

    Obama pointed out he opposed the war from the beginning; Richardson said that unlike his rivals, he would pull out every troop from Iraq and Edwards pressed his fellow candidates still in Congress to force an end to the war.

    "For me it's simple," Edwards said in an excerpt provided by his campaign. "No more pontificating. No more vacillating. No more triangulating. No more broken promises. No more pats on the head. No more we'll-get-around-to-it-next-time. No more taking half a loaf."

    Obama said he warned his rivals and others serving in Congress in 2002 not to authorize the war. He was serving in the Illinois state Legislature at the time and won election to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

    "We knew back then this war was a mistake," Obama said in excerpts prepared for delivery provided by his campaign, casting himself in solidarity with more than 3,000 activists expected to show up. "We knew back then that it was dangerous diversion from the struggle against the terrorists who attacked us on September 11th. We knew back then that we could find ourselves in an occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences."

    Richardson, making slow progress in the race but trying to break out into the top tier of candidates, tried to differentiate himself by stressing that he would leave "zero troops" in Iraq. He pointed out that his leading opponents have supported legislation that would leave behind an undetermined number of residual forces to train and equip Iraqi forces, among other things.

    "With all due respect to my outstanding Democratic colleagues ・Senators Clinton, Obama, Dodd and Biden ・they all voted for timeline legislation that had loopholes," the New Mexico governor said. "Those loopholes allow this president, or any president, to leave an undetermined number of troops in Iraq indefinitely. And this is the same legislation that former Senator Edwards says we should send back and back to the president over and over again until he signs it."

    Richardson would leave a small Marine contingent behind in Iraq to protect the U.S. Embassy. But, he said, "if the embassy is not safe, then they're all coming home, too."

    He announced a Web site for supporters of his plan to sign a petition backing it ・

    Activists at the conference organized by the Campaign For America's Future are overwhelmingly opposed to the war. A year ago, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was booed at the conference for opposing a set date for pulling U.S. troops from Iraq.

    In a separate speech to a union members Tuesday, Clinton said a residual force was necessary to fight terrorism and defend Americans, but combat troops should start coming home now.

    If the Iraqi government won't do its part, "we should not continue to support them," Clinton told a presidential forum hosted by the powerful American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

    MSNBC host Chris Matthews pressed Clinton at the labor forum on her thoughts about whether former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby should be pardoned. Clinton artfully dodged: "I think there will be enough to be said about that without me adding to it."

    Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted in March of lying to investigators and obstructing Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's inquiry into the 2003 leak of a CIA operative's identity. A federal judge said last week he will not delay a 2 1/2-year prison sentence for Libby in the case.

    Obama and Edwards were scheduled to speak midday Tuesday, while Clinton and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich were scheduled to speak Wednesday.

    White House Conference Center Evacuated

    (AP) A bomb-sniffing dog reacted to a vehicle that was being used for Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert's visit Monday, leading to evacuation of parts of a White House annex building.

    The building was reopened about 90 minutes later.

    Washington police were checking out the vehicle, which was driven by a member of the delegation that was staying across the street from the White House at the Blair House, according to Kim Bruce, spokeswoman for the Secret Service.

    Inside the White House, President George W. Bush was apparently sticking to his schedule of the day.

    Police blocked off streets, but pedestrians were allowed to keep walking in some areas near the White House.

    Security in the area already had been heightened because of Olmert's visit to Washington.

    The evacuated building was the White House conference center, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. The conference center temporarily houses the White House press corps during a renovation in the West Wing.

    Agreed: Something Needs To Change In Iraq

    (CBS) The troops for the "surge" strategy, which started in January, are now all in place. While the Bush administration and congressional Republicans say they are waiting to see how well it will work, critics say that the United States' increased military presence will do little to build a stable Iraq.

    Appearing on Face the Nation, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that members of his party believe judgment of the surge's effectiveness should be withheld until Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, deliver a progress report to Congress.

    "I think the proper time to really make a serious evaluation of the direction we ought to head is in September," McConnell said.

    Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have said that the outlook for Iraq is a mixed picture but is not hopeless. Polls show, however, that public support for the war among Americans is dwindling, and violence in Iraq shows no signs of slowing.

    Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said now is the time to go a different direction.

    Although President Bush vetoed legislation passed by congressional Democrats setting a timetable for withdrawal, Levin said his party will try again to begin an American troop withdrawal. This time, he said, Democrats will be successful because they have support from more frustrated Republicans.

    "We are going to be offering an amendment which will, in one form or another, set a timetable for the reduction of American troops starting in about 120 days," Levin told Bob Schieffer. "We have got to change this course. We have got to change the Iraqi mentality [of] thinking that they have got some kind of an open-ended commitment, which is what the president promised them a few months ago."

    McConnell said he expects a change in policy to come, but he said he wants to see how the surge strategy works.

    "I don't think we'll have the same level of troops, in all likelihood, that we have now," he said. "The Iraqis will have to step up, not only on the political side, but on the military side, to a greater extent."

    It is the Iraqi government, McConnell said, that deserves the lions share of the blame for the chaos in Iraq.

    "The Iraqi government, so far, has been a big disappointment," he said. "They've not done the things that they know they need to do to hold their country together."

    But, former Congressman and chair of the Iraq Study Group, Lee Hamilton, told Schieffer that U.S. forces can't withdraw from Iraq until Iraqi forces can take over responsibility for security.

    "Our primary mission today is the surge," Hamilton said. "We're not going to get out of Iraq unless we train better than we have the Iraqi forces and let them take over some of the responsibilities we now have."

    McConnell said he thinks there is growing support for the recommendations made by Hamilton and James Baker in the Iraq Study Group report.

    Released last year, the report stressed more dialog with regional powers like Syria and Iran while maintaining a strong military presence at Iraq's borders. It recommended against a troop surge.

    "There is still no military solution to Iraq," Hamilton said on Face the Nation. "The military plays a hugely important role, but you must have vigorous, robust efforts to get a national reconciliation."

    Both Levin and McConnell said that the Iraqi government has failed to live up to its part of the bargain and hasn't assumed control of the country.

    "What's required here is for the President of the United States to tell the Iraqi leaders that we're going to begin to reduce our troops as the message to them that the responsibility for their own country is in their hands, not ours," Levin said.

    The Iraqi congress is also thinking of taking a two-month summer vacation.

    "You cannot do that while our troops are dying and being wounded and your troops are dying and being wounded and your people are being blown up," Levin said.

    Dems Call For Better Fuel Efficiency

    U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

    (AP) In their weekly radio address, Democrats on Saturday called for a new direction in energy policy, away from gas-guzzling automobiles and reliance on foreign oil.

    "America deserves more fuel efficient cars," Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington said. But she added "the only way consumers are going to get more out of a tank of gas is if the president and his party help deliver votes in a narrowly divided Congress."

    It's widely expected the Senate will approve some sort of increase in auto fuel economy as part of an energy bill it hopes to finish in the coming weeks.

    The Senate bill would require automakers to increase the fuel economy of new cars, SUVs and pickups beginning in 2020 to a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon. It currently is 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 mpg for SUVs and small trucks.

    But a group of senators close to the auto industry ・both Democrats and Republicans ・argue that carmakers can't meet that steep of an increase, especially for SUVS and small trucks. They will try to get approval this week for a more modest boost in the federal requirement to 36 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for SUVs and pickups by 2025.

    Bush has said he opposes Congress setting any new arbitrary numerical fuel economy standard.

    Cantwell said Democrats want to "take our energy policy in a new direction."

    "America's strength lies in our ability to invent new and better ways of doing things," she said. "The challenge we face now is transforming America's energy policy ・one that is well over 50 years old and too reliant of fossil fuels ・to one that will make America a global leader again in energy technology and get us off our over-dependence on foreign oil."

    US Iraq troop surge 'starts now'

    An Iraqi and a US soldier patrol together in Baghdad

    The US military has said all the extra US troops sent to Iraq as part of the "surge" strategy are now in place.

    The US has deployed some 28,500 troops, mostly in Baghdad, to try to improve security and curb sectarian violence.

    Spokesman Lt Col Christopher Garver told the BBC that counter-insurgency efforts could now get fully under way.

    US Defence Secretary Robert Gates - who has landed in Baghdad on a surprise visit - said the government should do more to reconcile warring factions.

    Asked by reporters what message he would convey to Iraq's leaders, Mr Gates said: "That our troops are buying them time to pursue reconciliation, that frankly we are disappointed with the progress so far."

    The US military is due to report on the success of the build-up in September, against a backdrop of pressure from the Democrat-led Congress to end the war.

    Meanwhile the US military said an Air Force F-16 fighter jet crashed in Iraq early on Friday.

    It said the plane with one crew member "was flying on a close air support mission", without specifying where the crash occurred, what caused it or what happened to the pilot.

    The military also confirmed that four US soldiers had died in Iraq on Thursday. Three were killed when their vehicle hit an explosive device in Kirkuk, to the north of the country.

    'Some progress'

    The top US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are due to report to the US Congress on the success of the troop build-up in September.

    An Iraqi woman in the Sadr City area of Baghdad

    They are likely to come under pressure to show that the surge - which has the backing of President George W Bush - is getting results, as lawmakers debate the next funding bill for US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Lt Col Garver told the BBC News website that the strategy could only now start to work as had been planned.

    "All the forces initially identified as part of the surge have completed their strategic movements into theatre in Iraq," he said.

    "Now everyone is here, this is when General Petraeus intends the surge to start as it was envisaged, with everyone working together to bring the levels of violence down in Baghdad."

    He warned it would take 30 to 60 days for the final brigade, which arrived this week, to become fully operational.

    Other brigades have already moved into their operational areas and begun building relations with the Iraqi army, police and local civilians, Lt Col Garver said.

    "We've seen some progress in some areas, in other areas where we have been working there hasn't been as much progress as we would like," he said.

    Open criticism

    The extra forces will concentrate on security in Baghdad and the "belt" around the city, particularly to the north, west and south, Lt Col Garver said.

    "We know most of the car bombs are made out on the rural areas and brought into the city, so we have to be out looking for those bomb factories and take them out," he said.

    Within Baghdad, the deployment of all the troops will mean that once insurgents have been driven out of one area they will not be able to find "safe haven" in another neighbourhood, Lt Col Garver said.

    The military hopes its efforts will build the confidence of local people so they become more willing to provide information on suspected insurgents in their midst, he added.

    Meanwhile, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, has taken the unusual step of openly criticising the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace.

    Senator Reid told reporters on Thursday that he had told Gen Pace "he had not done a very good job of speaking out for some obvious things that weren't going right in Iraq".

    Mr Reid also said he was "waiting to see if General Petraeus can be a little more candid with us" about the situation in Iraq, saying he believed past assessments had been too rosy.

    Clinton, Romney Are Wealthiest Candidates

    (AP) Former President Clinton made more than $10 million in paid speeches last year, according to new filings that show he and his presidential-candidate wife have at least $10 million in the bank, and may have closer to $50 million.

    According to financial disclosure forms made public Thursday, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton hold two accounts, each valued at somewhere between $5 and $25 million. One is an old-fashioned bank account; the other is a blind trust.

    The reports indicate that when it comes to family wealth, Clinton is the wealthiest of the members of Congress running for president. Of all the presidential candidates, only Mitt Romney, whose assets are between $190 million and $250 million, may lay claim to being more affluent.

    Republican Sen. John McCain's family wealth is almost exclusively held by his wife, Cindy. An heiress to a major beer distribution company, Cindy McCain has several trust funds, money markets and other accounts, some more than $1 million.

    Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and his wife, Michelle, reported assets ranging from $460,000 to $1.1 million. Those assets don't include options in Tree House Foods, a food distribution firm on whose board Michelle Obama served. Michelle Obama stepped down from the board recently.

    Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., listed as one of his major assets a cottage in County Galway, Ireland, worth between $100,001 and $250,000. He reported earning rent from the cottage of between $5,001 and $15,000. His wife, Jackie, has money market funds, IRAs and stock in companies, including Blockbuster Inc.

    Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., listed bank accounts and life insurance policies worth between $19,000 and $110,000. He receives a teaching stipend from Widener University where he has been an adjunct law professor since 1991. His wife teaches at the Delaware Technical and Community College.

    Most of the presidential candidates serving in the Senate reported income from books. Obama was the most successful, reporting $572,490 in royalties for one book and an advance for a second. Hillary Clinton's own book profits are declining, years after her "Living History" became a best-seller in 2003. She reported royalties of $350,000 for the book last year. Dodd received a $30,000 advance for "Letter from Nuremberg." His father was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals.

    Most of the presidential candidates filed financial disclosures last month to the Federal Election Commission and the Office of Government Ethics. Among the leading candidates, however, Clinton, McCain and Romney received extensions because the Office of Government Ethics wants them to open up their blind trusts.

    The reports filed with the Senate by Clinton and McCain list the blind trusts, but don't disclose what is in them.

    Former President Clinton upped his speechmaking money from the previous year, garnering some $10.2 million in payments, compared with about $7.5 million the year before.

    The Clintons had a much more pedestrian income when he ran for president in 1992. If Sen. Clinton's 2008 presidential bid is successful, they will enter the White House a very rich couple.

    Six years out of power, Bill Clinton can still raise huge sums with a personal appearance. He made a staggering $450,000 for a single September speech in London, at a Fortune Forum event, as well as $200,000 for an April appearance in the Bahamas to speak to IBM, and another $200,000 for a New York speech to General Motors.

    The former president's earnings must be reported as the spouse of a senator. Disclosure rules do not require him to reveal everything. He received an advance from Random House for an unpublished manuscript, but is only required to say that it was greater than $1,000.

    He also did not have to say how much he earns as a partner with Yucaipa Global Opportunities Fund, a Los Angeles-based investment firm.

    Clinton Gets Campaign Link To Latinos

    (AP) Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton announced on Tuesday that New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez will serve as co-chair of her presidential campaign, providing her with a strong link to the Hispanic community.

    In a joint news conference, the New York senator said she appreciates Menendez' support and called him "the embodiment of the American dream."

    "The support of Latino Americans is especially important to me because these days require us to bring our country together," Clinton said.

    Menendez, a Cuban-American and former member of the House leadership, was appointed in December 2005 to fill the Senate seat of Gov.-elect Jon Corzine. Menendez was re-elected in 2006, defeating Thomas Kean Jr., the son of the former Republican governor, in a hard-fought and expensive race.

    Clinton raised money and campaigned for Menendez during his re-election bid.

    Menendez is one of just three Hispanics in the Senate, along with Republican Mel Martinez of Florida and Democrat Ken Salazar of Colorado.

    Menendez said he trusts Clinton to get the United States out of a "mismanaged and misguided" war in Iraq.

    "As someone who voted against the Iraq war, it is my judgment that Sen. Clinton is the leader best able to move us forward and out of this war," he said.

    Clinton has been widely criticized for her vote to authorize the war in 2002. On the campaign trail, she has promised to end the conflict if elected president.

    The Menendez endorsement follows that of another prominent Hispanic Democrat, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Both California and New Jersey are among several large states hosting primaries on Feb. 5, 2008.

    Gonzales No-Confidence Vote Dies In Senate

    Alberto Gonzales

    (CBS/AP) Republicans handily blocked a symbolic vote of no confidence against Attorney General Albert Gonzales in the Senate on Monday, turning back a Democratic effort to prod him from office after lawmakers in both parties questioned his competence and his evasive answers to questions about the dismissals of U.S. attorneys.

    The 53-38 vote fell seven short of the 60 votes required under U.S. Senate rules to move the nonbinding resolution to a formal debate. In bringing it up, Democrats dared Republicans to vote their true feelings about the attorney general, who had alienated even the White House's strongest defenders by bungling the firings of eight federal prosecutors and claiming dozens of times that he did not recall details of their departures.

    Republicans did not defend him, but most voted on constitutional grounds against moving the resolution to formal consideration and accused Democrats of trying to prod Gonzales from office. That development seemed unlikely in the short term. Gonzales dismissed the rhetorical ruckus on Capitol Hill, and President George W. Bush continued to stand by his longtime friend and legal adviser.

    "They can have their votes of no confidence, but it's not going to make the determination about who serves in my government," Bush said in Sofia, Bulgaria, the last stop on a weeklong visit to Europe.

    "This process has been drug out a long time," Bush added. "It's political."

    The attorney general said he was paying no attention to the rhetoric in Congress.

    "I am not focusing on what the Senate is doing," Gonzales said at a nuclear terrorism conference in Miami. "I am going to be focusing on what the American people expect of the attorney general of the United States and this great Department of Justice."

    Democrats and Republicans have widely criticized Gonzales for botching the firings of the prosecutors, claiming not to know who ordered the dismissals and causing the Justice Department to fall into disarray as a result. Lawmakers of both parties also have long complained that Gonzales allowed Justice to violate civil liberties on a host of other issues ・such as by carrying out Bush's warrantless wiretapping program.

    It's all about political symbolism, since only the president can decide if Gonzales stays or goes, CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss reports. A lot of Republicans are unhappy with Gonzales, but say this "no-confidence" vote was a stunt.

    One veteran Republican said Gonzales had spent his political capital in the Senate.

    "There is no confidence in the attorney general on this side of the aisle," said Sen. Arlen Specter, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Specter voted to move the resolution forward, but he said many of his GOP colleagues would not because they feared political retribution.

    Democrats said it was only fair to put senators on record for or against Gonzales, particularly since five Republican senators have demanded the attorney general's resignation and many more have said in public comments that they had lost confidence in him.

    "If senators cast their vote with their conscience, they would speak with near unanimity that there is no confidence in the attorney general," said the resolution's author, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer. "Their united voice would undoubtedly dislodge the attorney general from the post that he should no longer hold."

    Sen. Trent Lott, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, said it is inappropriate for the Senate to hold forth on a member of the president's cabinet, and that doing so would boomerang.

    "This is a nonbinding, irrelevant resolution proving what? Nothing," Lott said. "Maybe we should be considering a vote of no confidence on the Senate or on the Congress for malfunction and an inability to produce anything."

    Lieberman: Bomb Iran If It Doesn't Stop

    Sen. Joe Lieberman advocats the use of force if Iran continues to help anti-U.S. forces in Iraq.

    (CBS) The United States should launch military strikes against Iran if the government in Tehran does not stop supplying anti-American forces in Iraq, Sen. Joe Lieberman said Sunday on Face The Nation.

    "I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Lieberman told Bob Schieffer. "And to me, that would include a strike into... over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."

    The Indepedent former Democrat from Connecticut said that he was not calling for an invasion of Iran, but he did say the U.S. should target specific training camps.

    "I think you could probably do a lot of it from the air, but they can't believe that they have immunity for training and equipping people to come in and kill Americans," Lieberman said.

    Lieberman, who has been one of Congress's most outspoken supporters of the Bush administration's Iraq war policies, said that continuing the fight in Iraq and confronting Iran are necessary for achieving a wider peace in the Middle East.

    If the U.S. does not act against Iran, "they'll take that as a sign of weakness on our part and we will pay for it in Iraq and throughout the region and ultimately right here at home," Lieberman said.

    He said that he has seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying insurgents and foreign fighters in Iraq.

    "By some estimates, they have killed as many as 200 American soldiers," he said.

    The Senator said he was not calling for an end to the limited diplomatic efforts that are underway between Washington and Tehran.

    "We can tell them we want them to stop that, but if there's any hope of the Iranians living according to the international rule of law and stopping, for instance, their nuclear weapons development, we can't just talk to them," Lieberman said. "If they don't play by the rules, we've got to use our force, and to me that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they're doing."

    Dean: Only A Democrat Will End Iraq War

    Howard Dean

    (AP) The high hurdles faced by congressional Democrats in their efforts to end the Iraq war make electing a Democratic president in 2008 the best way to finish the conflict, Democratic party chairman Howard Dean said Saturday.

    He noted his party has made little progress toward ending the war, the cause, he said, that returned them to power.

    "The American people hired Democrats last November to ensure that we end this war," Dean said during the weekly Democratic radio address. "So let me be clear, we know that if we don't keep our promise, we may find ourselves the minority again."

    Dean put the blame for the lack of progress squarely on the White House and congressional Republicans for blocking his party's attempt at tying war funding to deadlines for troop withdrawals.

    "We have to face the reality that Republicans in Congress are standing with President Bush as he stubbornly wields his veto pen," Dean charged. In response, he proposed that the "one way to truly ensure we end this war" was to elect a Democrat as president in 2008.

    A former presidential candidate himself, Dean contrasted the field of Democratic and Republican candidates who participated in separate party debates earlier this week, saying only Democrats would end the war.

    Democrats also seek to shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, restore damaged relationships with other countries, and provide the military with "the resources they need," Dean said.

    Bush Poll Numbers Match All-Time Low

    (AP) Public approval of the job President Bush is doing now matches its all-time low, an AP-Ipsos poll says.

    The survey, released Thursday, reflects widespread discontent over how Mr. Bush is handling the war in Iraq, efforts against terrorism and domestic issues. It also underscores challenges Republican presidential and congressional candidates will confront next year when they face voters who seem to be clamoring for change.

    Only 32 percent said they were satisfied with how Mr. Bush is handling his job overall, the same low point AP-Ipsos polling measured last January and a drop of 3 percentage points since May.

    Mr. Bush still wins approval from seven in 10 Republicans, though that is near his historic low for GOP support. Only a quarter of those initially identifying themselves as independents expressed satisfaction with the president, along with 8 percent of Democrats.

    On issue after issue, approval of Mr. Bush's efforts matched previous all-time lows in the survey.

    Twenty-eight percent were satisfied with his handling of the war in Iraq, down 5 percentage points in a month. Two in three Republicans said they approved.

    Only a third overall approved of how Mr. Bush is handling domestic issues like health care, with the same proportion expressing satisfaction with his job on foreign policy and the war on terror. And 37 percent said they approved of his handling of the economy. Support in all categories dropped slightly since May.

    In another indication of the public's bleak mood, only 21 percent said they believe things in the U.S. are heading in the right direction, the worst mark since the AP-Ipsos poll began in December 2003.

    Women, older people, and those with low incomes were especially discontent. Only three in 10 conservatives and similar numbers of white evangelicals ・usually strong GOP supporters ・expressed satisfaction with the country's direction.

    Bush: "Russia Is Not An Enemy"

    (CBS/AP) President Bush on Wednesday discounted Vladimir Putin's threat to re-target missiles on Europe, saying "Russia is not going to attack Europe."

    Mr. Bush, in an interview with The Associated Press and other reporters, said that no U.S. military response was required after Putin warned that Russia would take steps in response to plans to deploy a U.S. missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

    "Russia is not an enemy," Mr. Bush said, sitting in a sun-drenched garden in the resort town hosting the Group of Eight summit Wednesday. "There needs to be no military response because we're not at war with Russia. Russia is not a threat."

    Mr. Bush and Putin will meet later Wednesday at the opening of the summit of industrialized nations. Asked if he anticipated a tense encounter, Mr. Bush replied: "Could be. I don't think so ... I'll work to see that it's not a tense meeting."

    Putin had rattled nerves in Europe with his weekend declaration that he would retarget missiles on Europe in response to the missile defense shield. "I don't think Vladimir Putin intends to attack Europe," Mr. Bush said.

    Later in the day, Mr. Bush cited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declaration that it was "too late" to stop Iran's nuclear program as justification for basing a shield in Europe.

    "Therefore, let's build a missile defense system," Mr. Bush said, adding that it was time to return to the U.N. Security Council to tighten pressure on Iran to give up its suspected weapons program.

    The president says the missile defense system, which would be based in Eastern Europe, is designed to keep rogue states like Iran and North Korea, from being able to fire a missile that would hit Europe, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod

    The meeting, in this picturesque vacation town on the Baltic coast, already has been the subject of violent protests: Weekend rioting in nearby Rostock was called Germany's worst in decades as anti-globalization protesters hurled rocks and bottles at police.

    And Wednesday, a motley band of more than 800 protesters ・some sporting fluorescent wigs and clown noses ・scampered through woods and open fields past police patrols Wednesday to reach the barbed-wire topped fence sealing off the Group of Eight summit.

    Organizers of the various protest groups claimed victory for getting as far as the barrier, despite being doused by police water cannons and occasionally tackled as they blocked several roads ・including the route from the airport as leaders were flying in for the first day of the summit.

    "We have successfully taken over all roads leading to Heiligendamm," said Christoph Kleine of the Block G-8 group. "We are very happy with that."

    Germany has deployed 16,000 police and have forbidden demonstrations within a four-mile radius of the summit location. In addition, there is seven miles of fences with razor wire surrounding the resort, CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante.

    GOP Presidential Hopefuls Chastise Bush

    (AP) President Bush drew startling criticism Tuesday night from Republican White House hopefuls unhappy with his handling of the Iraq war, his diplomatic style and his approach to immigration. “I would certainly not send him to the United Nations” to represent the United States, said Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor and one-time member of Bush's Cabinet, midway through a spirited campaign debate.

    Arizona Sen. John McCain criticized the administration for its handling of the Iraq War, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said, “I think we were underprepared and underplanned for what came after we knocked down Saddam Hussein.” Rep. Duncan Hunter of California said the current administration “has the slows” when it comes to building a security fence along the border with Mexico. Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado recalled that White House aide Karl Rove had once told him “never darken the door of the White House.” The congressman said he'd tell George Bush the same thing.

    The Republicans sprinkled the criticism of Bush throughout a two-hour debate that ranged over topics from war to immigration legislation pending in Congress to religion. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Hunter both said they would pardon Vice President Dick Cheney's former aide Lewis I. “Scooter” Libby, sentenced to 30 months in prison earlier in the day for lying and obstructing a CIA leak investigation. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a former prosecutor, said the sentence was excessive, which “argues in favor of a pardon.” Much of the debate focused on Iraq.

    McCain and Brownback both admitted they voted to authorize the U.S. military invasion of Iraq without reading the formal National Intelligence Estimate in advance. The confession drew a jab from former Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia. Members of Congress “ought to read at least that kind of material,” he said. Hunter said he had, the only member of Congress on the debate stage to make the claim.

    Both McCain and Brownback said they had received numerous briefings on the situation in Iraq before they cast their votes in 2002. National intelligence estimates are compilations of the best thinking of U.S. intelligence agencies, meant to provide the broadest guidance to government policymakers. But they can be wrong. A 2002 assessment, for example, concluded that Iraq had continued its development of weapons of mass destruction, held arsenals of chemical and biological weapons and “probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.”

    McCain drew loud applause from the partisan debate audience when he turned a question about the war in Iraq into criticism of the leading Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. “When Senator Clinton says this is Mr. Bush's war, President Bush's war,” she is wrong, he said. “When President Clinton was in power, I didn't say Bosnia was President Clinton's war,” the Arizona senator said. “Presidents don't lose wars. Political parties don't lose wars. Nations lose wars,” he added.

    Similar Plotlines In Dem Debate Sequel

    This is the summer of sequels at the box office and Sunday's Democratic presidential debate fit right in. The scenery and local audience in New Hampshire was far different than these candidates addressed in South Carolina last month and the dramatic tension reached a slightly higher level. But the basic plotlines remained unchanged.

    Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards cast himself once again in the role of the aggressive progressive, determined to claim the party's anti-war, anti-Bush mantle, mostly at the expense of front-runner Hillary Clinton. The senator from New York stuck to her script, refusing to apologize for her 2002 vote authorizing the invasion of Iraq and parting ways with Edwards on the war on terrorism. And Barack Obama stayed true to his practical idealism, with a twist of added policy heft and quick wit thrown in.

    Just minutes into the debate, the three found themselves in a sharp exchange over the war in Iraq and terrorism when Clinton pointedly disagreed with Edwards' characterization of the war on terror as a "bumper sticker" and a mere "political slogan." Clinton not only refused to endorse that view, she came dangerously close -- for a Democratic candidate -- to complimenting the Bush administration. "I believe we are safer than we were" before 9/11, she said before adding: "we are not yet safe enough."

    As it has been for nearly the past four years though, it was the war which provided most of the spark and starkly demonstrated one of the major fault lines in the Democratic race.

    While Clinton and Obama sought to explain their recent votes against the Iraq funding bill, Edwards struck hard, criticizing both of the senators for "quietly" opposing the administration's policy on timelines for withdrawal, insisting: "it's the difference between leading and following."

    For her part, Clinton sought to cast the war as a unifying issue where Democrats have the upper hand, despite nuances in their approach. Noting that nearly all the Republican presidential candidates support the war, Clinton said, "the differences among us are minor. The differences between us and the Republicans are major."

    But it was Obama who took offense at Edwards' line, refusing to cede any ground in the staunch anti-war camp. Alluding to Edwards' original vote for the war, the senator from Illinois told Edwards: "The fact is that I opposed this war from the start, so you're about four and a half years late on leadership on this issue."

    Edwards returned to the original authorization for the war when he and Clinton were both asked to explain how they felt comfortable enough to vote for it when they did not read the entire National Intelligence Estimate first. Clinton tried to brush past the issue, saying she had enough information while Edwards explained in more detail, adding: "one difference we do have is I think I was wrong."

    Edwards, Clinton And Obama Spar On Iraq

    John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, New Hampshire debate

    (AP) Democratic presidential candidates clashed on Sunday over whether the Bush administration had made the country safer from terrorism after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards called President Bush's global war on terrorism a "political slogan, a bumper sticker, that's all it is" in the second televised debate pitting the eight Democratic contenders.

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is the front-runner in national polls, said she did not agree with Edwards characterization of the war on terrorism.

    As a senator from New York, "I have seen first hand the terrible damage that can be inflicted on our country by a small band of terrorists."

    Still, she said, "I believe we are safer than we were."

    Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said that the administration's war in Iraq had detracted from efforts to root out terrorists.

    "We live in a more dangerous world partly as a consequence of this president's actions," Obama said.

    The candidates sought to highlight their own differences on the war in Iraq.

    Obama told Edwards, who voted in October 2002 to authorize the war in Iraq but now says that the vote was a mistake: "John, you're about four and a half years late on leadership on this issue."

    Obama was not in the Senate at the time of the vote but had voiced opposition to the war resolution at the time.

    Edwards conceded, "He was right, I was wrong" on opposing the war from the beginning. And Edwards sought to highlight his change of heart on his vote with Clinton's continuing refusal to disavow her vote for the war resolution.

    Said Clinton: "That was a sincere vote."

    She again declined to say her vote was wrong.

    Both Edwards and Clinton agreed that they voted for the war resolution in 2002 without reading an intelligence report on Iraq that was available to them. Both said they sought other information and believed they were thoroughly briefed.

    Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich said the war on Iraq should not just be blamed on Bush, but on the Congress that authorized it.

    U.S. troops "never should have been sent there in the first place," he said. Rather than debate timetables and benchmarks, the Democratic-controlled Congress should "just say no money, the war's over," he said.

    Kucinich called on other debate partners who were members of Congress to remember that voters had given Democrats control of both House and Senate last November largely in response to opposition to the war.

    To a question on whether English should be the official language in the United States, only former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel raised his hand in the affirmative.

    But Obama protested the question itself, calling it "the kind of question that was designed precisely to divide us." He said such questions "do a disservice to the American people."

    The candidates squared off as a new national poll found Clinton maintaining a significant lead over her rivals. The Washington Post/ABC News poll found the former first lady leading the field with 42 percent support among adults, compared with 27 percent for Obama and 11 percent for Edwards.

    The debate took place in the first primary state.

    The Iraq war was the main focus, as it was during Democrats' first debate, in late April in Orangeburg, S.C. Polls show the war has become deeply unpopular among voters and especially among Democratic activists, who vote heavily in primaries.

    Iraq Dominates N.H. Democrats' Convention

    (AP) Iraq was the top subject for presidential hopefuls addressing delegates in the first primary state's Democratic convention Saturday.

    In a warm-up to a nationally televised New Hampshire debate on Sunday, Sens. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson promoted themselves as the ones with the vision and answers for solving Iraq through diplomacy.

    "The only way which you can have a prospect of ending a self-sustaining cycle of sectarian violence is to separate the combatants and give them a political way forward," said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    "Instead of talking about a surge in military power, how about a surge in diplomacy," said Dodd.

    Kucinich, whose campaign signs feature a peace sign, pushed his core message: "Peace is inevitable if we have a president who is willing," he said.

    Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador, declared an ambitious to-do list as president. "First. Day one ・announce that America is going to get out of Iraq," he said. "How do we do that? With diplomacy."

    Speaking later in the afternoon, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel spoke of punishment, not diplomacy. The quickest way to end the war is to make it illegal, he said.

    "Make the continuation of the war a felony and if you disobey you go to jail for five years," he said.

    Gravel also was the only candidate to openly criticize his fellow Democrats ・though not by name ・by saying those who voted to authorize the Iraq war as members of Congress aren't qualified to lead the country, even if they now regret the vote.

    "I don't buy that for a-half-a-second. If that is true then they shouldn't be president because they're incompetent," he said.

    The four candidates who spoke in the morning drew plenty of cheers, applause and standing ovations as they praised state Democrats for raising the minimum wage, passing civil unions and a smoking ban. They spent plenty of time talking about energy and the environment, health care, education and social issues near to Democrats' hearts like abortion rights.

    In a speech declaring the creation of an administration for green buildings and universal health care for all, Kucinich won the morning's heartiest response by taking a swipe at the vice president.

    "It is time to impeach Vice President Cheney," he shouted as the crowd whistled, cheered, clapped and got to its feet. Kucinich has introduced articles of impeachment against Cheney over the Iraq war.

    "That's why I'm going to carry New Hampshire," Kucinich said later to reporters. "The response you see today is the response I'm getting all over the country. I'm just waiting to be discovered by you."

    While Biden, Dodd, Richardson and Kucinich showed up for the convention, the top three Democratic candidates ・Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards sent surrogates to represent them.

    Dodd, Biden and Richardson were scheduled to spend Saturday evening at a fundraising dinner for Iowa Democrats before returning to New Hampshire for the debate Sunday. Clinton and Edwards also were to attend the same dinner. Obama was in California on Saturday.

    Bush Calls For Global Emissions Pact

    (CBS/AP) Before an expected clash with other world leaders at next week's G-8 summit, President Bush on Thursday offered up his own plan for addressing the threat of climate change.

    Mr. Bush urged 15 major nations to agree by the end of next year on a global target for reducing greenhouse gases.

    The proposal was welcomed by the leaders of Britain and Germany, who have been critical of the U.S. approach.

    "I think it is positive, and the U.S. president's speech makes it clear that no one can avoid the question of global warming any more," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin. "This is common ground on which to act."

    Mr. Bush called for the first in a series of meetings to begin this fall, bringing together countries identified as major emitters of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. The list would include the United States, China, India and major European countries. After setting a goal, the nations would be free to develop their own strategies to meet the target.

    The president outlined his proposal in a speech ahead of next week's summit in Germany of leading industrialized nations, where global warming is to be a major topic and Mr. Bush will be on the spot.

    The United States has refused to ratify the landmark 1997 Kyoto Protocol requiring industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2012. Developing countries, including China and India, were exempted from that first round of cuts. Mr. Bush rejected the Kyoto approach, as well as the latest German proposal for what happens after 2012.

    "The United States takes this issue seriously," Mr. Bush said. "The new initiative I'm outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany next week."

    Environmental groups were quick to criticize Mr. Bush's plan.

    Friends of the Earth president Brent Blackwelder called the proposal "a complete charade. It is an attempt to make the Bush administration look like it takes global warming seriously without actually doing anything to curb emissions."

    National Environmental Trust president Philip Clapp said, "This is a transparent effort to divert attention from the president's refusal to accept any emissions reductions proposals at next week's G-8 summit. After sitting out talks on global warming for years, the Bush administration doesn't have very much credibility with other governments on the issue. "

    And, Daniel J. Weiss, climate strategy director for the liberal Center for American Progress, said the Bush administration has a "do-nothing" policy on global warming despite U.S. allies' best efforts to spur U.S. reductions.

    British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the Bush plan "a big step forward."

    "For the first time America's saying it wants to be part of a global deal," Blair said in Johannesburg, South Africa, speaking to Sky News. "For the first time it's setting its own domestic targets. For the first time it's saying it wants a global target for the reduction of emissions, and therefore for the first time I think the opportunity for a proper global deal."

    Gore: Bush Leads "Assault On Reason"

    (CBS) Former Vice President Al Gore asserts it's time to act, to save American democracy as we know it.

    In his new book, "The Assault on Reason," he argues that the foundations of the republic are threatened by today's politics of fear, as practiced by the Bush administration.

    The former ・and some contend future ・presidential candidate laid out some of his arguments Wednesday to The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

    The book's subtitle sheds more light on its contents: "How the Politics of Fear, Secrecy, and Blind Faith Subvert Wise Decision Making, Degrade Our Democracy, and Put Our Country and Our World in Peril."

    The interview touched on whether Gore, who's also an environmentalist and Oscar-winner might, indeed, seek the Oval Office again.

    Gore laughed and pulled away, saying, "No, no!" when Smith asked him to put on a "Gore '08" campaign-style button that Smith had picked up at a Gore lecture Tuesday night at George Washington University. "I don't want to invite that kind of speculation, but thank you," Gore said.

    Finally, Smith held the button up to Gore's lapel, saying he wanted to see what it looked like and a seemingly reluctant Gore held still, saying with a chuckle, "Yeah, OK. OK."

    But Gore was very serious when taking the administration to task for its refusal to go along with proposed European Union targets to reduce greenhouse gases.

    "That's an abdication of U.S. leadership in the world," Gore said. "We are the largest source of global warming pollution. We are the natural leader of the world. All of the other countries in the G-8 are unified and support taking action to save the planet's environment for us as human beings. And President Bush is opposed to it and is blocking any progress.

    "We are putting 70 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere today and every day. This is a moral issue, and the fact that our country is not providing leadership and, worse, is blocking progress, should be an issue that brings protesters out, that brings people to speak their minds, loudly and clearly and forcefully on this."

    Gore added he would certainly sign on to the EU goals if he were president.

    In a portion of the book quoted by Smith, Gore writes: "We are less safe because of (President Bush's) policy. He has created more anger and righteous indignation against us than any leader of our country in all the years of our existence as a nation. He has exposed Americans abroad and Americans in every U.S. town and city to a greater danger of attack because of his arrogance and willfulness."

    Those words, Gore told Smith, are "accurate. And I think that the deeper problem is how we have, as Americans, allowed the implementation of policies that have led to 150,000 troops being trapped in a civil war (in Iraq), just to pick one example. There are many."

    In that regard, Gore points fingers at Democrats as well as Republicans.

    "I criticize both parties and the system as a whole," he told Smith. "I say in the book, very clearly, that it's too simple and too partisan to simply place the blame on President Bush, because we have a Congress and free speech and independent courts and checks and balances, a free press. We are all responsible for the decisions we make.

    "And if this administration persuades the Congress to vote in favor of invading a country that didn't attack us, it is important for us to look at the reasons why that was acceptable to the Congress.

    "At the time of that vote, more than two-thirds of the American people had been given the impression ・and believed it ・that Saddam Hussein was the man who attacked us on 9/11. That wasn't true. And the fact that that case was made is bad, but what's much worse is that the immune system of democracy, our natural defenses against such gross errors, failed to work, and we have to address these underlying problems. Because whether it's the invasion of Iraq or the climate crisis or other crisis, there's lots of evidence available ahead of time that should be used to show that we should make a different decision."

    Gore speaks in the book of an electorate he sees as disengaged.

    "I think," he told Smith, "that's related to the fact that the American people don't feel as if they have a way to make their voices heard, to make their votes count. And for all the work on campaign finance reform ・and I've always supported it ・I do think it sometimes misses the elephant in the middle of the room, which is, as long as politicians in both parties have to rely on huge sums of money to buy 30-second television commercials, which is the principle means of communication in our democracy between candidates and voters now, then they're going to go to the people who reliably have that money year in and year out, and the special interests (and the lobbyists who represent them) dominate that group."

    In the book, he advocates federal funding for elections.

    To read an excerpt of "The Assault on Reason," click here.

    To watch the Smith interview, click here.

    Bush Orders Tougher Sanctions On Sudan

    (CBS/AP) President Bush ordered new U.S. economic sanctions Tuesday to pressure Sudan's government to halt the bloodshed in Darfur that the administration has condemned as genocide.

    "I promise this to the people of Darfur: the United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world," the president said.

    The sanctions target government-run companies involved in Sudan's oil industry and three individuals, including a rebel leader suspected of being involved in the violence in Darfur.

    "For too long the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder and rape of innocent civilians," the president said. "My administration has called these actions by their rightful name: genocide.

    "The world has a responsibility to put an end to it," Mr. Bush said.

    The president had been prepared to impose the sanctions last month, but held off to give U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon more time to find a diplomatic end to the four-year crisis in Darfur where more than 200,000 people have been killed.

    Ban said at the United Nations on Tuesday that he still needed more time to promote political negotiations and persuade the Sudanese government to accept more peacekeepers. Asked whether the U.S. sanctions would complicate his job of getting Sudan to agree to a larger U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force, Ban said: "We will have to see."

    Sudan's government criticized Mr. Bush's action. "We believe this decision is unfair and untimely," Sudan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali Sadiq told The Associated Press. He urged the rest of the world to ignore the U.S. move.

    Beyond the new U.S. sanctions, Mr. Bush directed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to draft a proposed U.N. resolution to strengthen international pressure on the Sudanese government of President Omar al-Bashir.

    Save Darfur Coalition director David Rubenstein welcomed the sanctions, but said they might be too little, too late.

    "President Bush must not give further months to determine whether these outlines measures work ・the Darfuri people don't have that much time," he said. "The president must set a short and firm deadline for fundamental changes in Sudanese behavior, and prepare now to implement immediately further measures should Khartoum continue to stonewall."

    Mr. Bush said he delayed imposing sanctions last month to allow more time for diplomacy, but that al-Bashir has continued to make empty promises of cooperation while obstructing international efforts to end the crisis.

    "One day after I spoke, they bombed a meeting of rebel commanders designed to discuss a possible peace deal with the government," the president said. "In the following weeks he used his army and government-sponsored militias to attack rebels and civilians in south Darfur. He's taken no steps to disarm these militias in the year since the Darfur peace agreement was signed. Senior officials continue to oppose the deployment of the U.N. peacekeeping force.

    "The result is that the dire security situation on the ground in Darfur has not changed," Mr. Bush said.

    "The President's multi-track policy of imposing unilateral U.S. sanctions along with international sanctions while supporting U.N. and African Union peacekeeping forces with humanitarian, financial and military assistance, provides a moral high ground that has a better chance of stopping the brutal bloodshed in Darfur."

    Bush: Iraqi, Afghan Wars "Our Destiny"

    President Bush lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Nat\'l Cemetery.

    (AP) President George W. Bush paid tribute Monday to America's troops ・"a new generation of fallen leaders" ・in a solemn Memorial Day visit to the national burial ground for war heroes.

    Speaking under overcast skies after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and meeting privately at the White House with the families of some fallen servicemen and women, Mr. Bush called the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a part of the nation's destiny. He said they follow a rich tradition of similar American sacrifices throughout this country's history.

    As people across the U.S. marked the day of remembrance, violence continued in Iraq where a suicide car bomber struck a busy commercial district in central Baghdad, killing at least 21 people and damaging a shrine revered by Sunnis and Shiites alike.

    Speaking of the more than 368,000 buried through history at Arlington National Cemetery, Mr. Bush said, "Nothing said today will ease your pain. But each of you needs to know our country thanks you and we embrace you and we will never forget the terrible loss you have suffered."

    "The greatest memorial to our fallen troops cannot be found in the words we say or the places we gather," he added. "The more lasting tribute is all around us."

    A man holding a sign that said "Bring home our troops" stood at the bridge as the Bush's motorcade traveled over the Potomac River on its way to the cemetery. There, the president was greeted by tourists waving at his motorcade.

    Troops with rifles fitted with bayonets stood at attention as his motorcade drove through rows of white tombstones, each marked with a tiny American flag. Smoke from cannon fire rose over the cemetery.

    Bush laid a wreath of red, white and blue flowers at the Tomb of the Unknowns and stood, his hand covering his heart, during a drum roll and Taps. First Lady Laura Bush stood nearby with relatives of fallen troops.

    In his speech, Mr. Bush said the freedoms that people enjoy in this country today "came at a great cost and they will surive only so long as there are those who are willing to protect them."

    The president said that even after four years, many young men and women still volunteer for the U.S. armed forces.

    "We've heard of 174 Marines recently, almost a quarter of battalion, who asked to have their enlistments extended," Mr. Bush said. "They want to serve their nation."

    "Those who serve are not fatalists or cynics," he added. "They know that one day this war will end, as all wars do. Our duty is to make sure this war was worth the sacrifice" and that the fighting men and women succeeded ・and "where tyrants and terrorists are frustrated and foiled ... where our nation is more secure from attack."

    "This is our country's calling," Mr. Bush said. "It's our country's destiny."

    "On this day of memory, we mourn brave citizens who laid their lives down for our freedom," he said. "May we always honor them, may we always embrace them and may we always be faithful to who they were and what they fought for."

    At least 3,452 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginining of the war in Iraq in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 325 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department.

    Wolfowitz blames media for exit

    Paul Wolfowitz

    The outgoing president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, has told the BBC an "overheated" atmosphere at the bank and in the media forced him to resign.

    Mr Wolfowitz stood down after a scandal over his role in winning a new pay and promotion package for his girlfriend.

    In an interview, Mr Wolfowitz said the bank's board did accept that he had acted ethically, and in good faith.

    He leaves the bank on 30 June after a presidency that was controversial both at the beginning and at the end.

    His appointment was originally opposed by many European nations, who disapproved of his previous role as a senior Pentagon official and an architect of the Iraq war.


    Speaking to the BBC World Service, Mr Wolfowitz denied that his own actions were the root cause of his departure.

    "I'm pleased that finally the board did accept that I acted in good faith and acted ethically," he said.

    "I accept the fact that by the time we got around to that, emotions here were so overheated that I don't think I could have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish for the people I really care about."

    He denied suggestions that lingering personal antipathy against him had contributed to his decision to leave.

    "I think it tells us more about the media than about the bank and I'll leave it at that.

    "People were reacting to a whole string of inaccurate statements and by the time we got to anything approximating accuracy the passions were around the bend."

    'Governance issues'

    Mr Wolfowitz defended his record over his two-year tenure at the organisation, and reserved high praise for those he encountered outside Washington.

    "Frankly the most inspired people and the ones most easily convinced, happen to be the ones that are out there working in country offices.

    "There's something that's a little enervating, to be charitable about it, about being in these wonderful comfortable conditions in Washington."

    But he did concede that the World Bank, which was created alongside the International Monetary Fund after the end of World War II, had some "governance issues" that needed addressing.

    "This kind of experience actually exposes problems but you don't solve problems unless you expose them," Mr Wolfowitz said.

    Turning to Africa, he said reducing poverty in the continent was the most important challenge the bank faced.

    Mr Wolfowitz told the BBC Africa had been left behind in what had been spectacular development success in other regions, such as east Asia or India.

    He said the World Bank was answerable on Africa and if it did not deliver for Africa in five years from now nothing else mattered.

    Bush Signs Iraq Spending Bill

    (AP) President Bush signed a bill Friday to pay for military operations in Iraq after a bitter struggle with Democrats in Congress who sought unsuccessfully to tie the money to U.S. troop withdrawals.

    Bush signed the bill into law at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, where he is spending part of the Memorial Day weekend. In announcing the signing, White House spokesman Tony Fratto noted that it came 109 days after Bush sent his emergency spending request to Congress.

    Bush had rejected an earlier bill because it contained a timetable for withdrawing troops. While the measure he signed establishes political goals for the Iraqi government and ties U.S. reconstruction aid to so-called benchmarks, Bush retains authority over the funds regardless of how the government in Baghdad performs.

    Rather than mandate arbitrary timetables for troop withdrawals or micromanage our military commanders, this legislation enables our servicemen and women to follow the judgment of commanders on the ground,・Bush said in a statement.

    This important bill also provides a clear roadmap to help the Iraqis secure their country and strengthen their young democracy,・he said. 的raqis need to demonstrate measurable progress on a series of benchmarks for improved security, political reconciliation and governance. These tasks will be difficult for this young democracy, but we are confident they will continue to make progress on the goals they have set for themselves.・

    The president's signature on this measure, however, doesn't end debate on Capitol Hill over the administration's war policy ・a dispute that will heat up again this fall.

    I think the president's policy is going to begin to unravel now,・said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who expressed disappointment that the bill did not force an end to U.S. participation in the conflict.

    Democrats say the drive to bring U.S. troops home is far from over.

    We're going to keep coming back and coming back,・said Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic caucus.

    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell predicted a change, and said Bush would show the way.

    I think that the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it,・McConnell said. in other words, I think he, himself, has certainly indicated he's not happy with where we are. And I think we are looking for a new direction in the fall.・

    McConnell also emphasized that the Iraqis need to make progress. we've given the Iraqi government an opportunity here to have a normal country. And so far, they've been a great disappointment to members of the Senate on both sides,・he said.

    The war spending bill provides about $95 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through Sept. 30 and billions in domestic projects, including more than $6 billion for hurricane relief. The House voted 280-142 Thursday night to pass the bill, followed by a 80-14 vote in the Senate.

    Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama both voted against the bill.

    的 fully support our troops・but the measure 吐ails to compel the president to give our troops a new strategy in Iraq,・said Clinton, D-N.Y.

    Enough is enough,・Obama, an Illinois senator, declared, adding that Bush should not get a blank check to continue down this same, disastrous path.・

    Their votes continued a shift in position for the two presidential hopefuls, both of whom began the year shunning a deadline for a troop withdrawal.

    Sen. John McCain, a GOP presidential contender, said the two Democrats were embracing a policy of surrender.・

    This vote may win favor with MoveOn and liberal primary voters, but it's the equivalent of waving a white flag to al Qaeda,・said McCain, R-Ariz. is a grass-roots anti-war group that rose to prominence in last year's elections.

    Thursday's legislative action capped weeks of negotiations with the White House, which agreed to accept some $17 billion more than Bush had requested as long as there were no restrictions on the military campaign.

    In the months ahead, lawmakers will vote repeatedly on whether U.S. troops should stay and whether Bush has the authority to continue the war. The Democratic strategy is intended to ratchet up pressure on the president, as well as on moderate Republicans who have grown tired of defending Bush administration policy in a deeply unpopular war.

    The Senate will go first when it considers a defense policy bill authorizing $649 billion in military spending in 2008. The proposed bill, approved this week by the Senate Armed Services Committee, cut $12 billion from the administration's $142 billion war-related request to fund other programs, including an increase in the size of the Army and the Marine Corps.

    The most critical votes on the war are expected to be cast in September, when the House and Senate debate war funding for 2008. The September votes probably will come after Iraq war commander Gen. David Petraeus tells Congress whether Bush's troop buildup plan is working. Also due by September is an independent assessment of progress made by the Iraqi government.

    The U.S. has spent more than $300 billion on Iraq military operations so far, according to the congressional Government Accountability Office.

    Bush Presses Ahead On Iraq Plan

    (CBS/AP) President Bush defended a revised Iraq war spending bill even as a new CBS News/New York Times poll showed that 76 percent of Americans think the war is going somewhat or very badly.

    During a Rose Garden news conference Thursday, Mr. Bush addressed the unpopular war and the relentless violence.

    The president expressed satisfaction with the new Iraq bill, which does not include a timetable for troop withdrawal, adding that the bill "also reflects a consensus that the Iraqi government needs to show real process in return for America's continued support."

    Resolute as he appeared, the president hinted strongly at a backup "Plan B," reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod. Modeled on last year's Baker-Hamilton report, it would call for more regional diplomatic contact, as well as a drawdown and repurposing of U.S. troops away from policing sectarian violence.

    This is the same plan Mr. Bush largely ignored when it was first published last December, Axelrod reports.

    Congress, trying to leave town by week's end for a Memorial Day holiday, was to vote on a $120 billion bill to keep military operations afloat through September.

    The House planned to vote Thursday with the Senate to follow suit by week's end.

    The reformed legislation does not set the deadline for U.S. troop withdrawals many Democrats wanted. Unable to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to override one presidential veto because of such a deadline ・or the threat of another ・Democratic leaders announced Tuesday they would proceed to provide money for the war anyway because they wanted to support the troops.

    Despite giving in to the president on timetables, some Democrats in Congress told Axelrod they will revisit the issue again this summer.

    The legislation would help to pay for the president's recent troop buildup designed to secure Baghdad and other volatile areas. "This summer is going to be a critical time for the new strategy," Mr. Bush said. He said the last five brigades ・about 15,000 troops ・of his buildup are scheduled to arrive in Baghdad next month.

    "We are going to expect heavy fighting in the next weeks and months and we can expect American and Iraqi casualties," Mr. Bush said.

    The president also said that the strategy he is now following includes many of the recommendations issued last December by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana recommendations at first generally ignored by the administration.

    The Democrats Back Down On Iraq

    The decision by congressional Democrats to back off their demand for troop withdrawal deadlines in the Iraq spending bill was seen by the morning newspapers as a defeat for anti-war Democrats and a rare victory for the White House.

    The New York Times called it "a wrenching reversal for leading Democrats, who saw their election triumph in November as a call to force an end to the war."

    The compromise agreement will include benchmarks the Iraqi government must meet in order to continue to receive U.S. reconstruction aid ・although President Bush will be allowed to waive those restrictions. It was also expected to include unrelated spending for Democratic priorities like a minimum wage hike and Gulf Coast hurricane relief.

    Still, the Washington Post said the president would be required "to surrender virtually none of his war authority," and called the final bill "a victory" for Mr. Bush "in a debate that has roiled Congress for months."

    Meanwhile, the Post also reports that work is nearing completion on a new, "post-surge" strategy for Iraq that stresses a political solution to the country's sectarian violence over a military one.

    The classified plan is being worked on by top U.S. commanders and diplomats in Iraq, and scheduled to be finished by May 31. Its main goal, the Post says, is to negotiate agreements between rival factions in Iraq from the national level down to the local level.

    "In essence, it is as much about the political deals needed to defuse a civil war as about the military operations aimed at quelling a complex insurgency," the Post said, citing officials with knowledge of the plan.

    The plan calls for maintaining elevated U.S. troop levels into 2008, while also significantly increasing the size of the Iraq army.

    Whither Ethics Reform?

    Democrats took control of Congress in January promising an overhaul of lobbying rules following a series of ethics scandals. But since becoming the majority party, they're finding that changing the way politics is conducted on Capitol Hill is easier said than done.

    The New York Times reports that House Democratic leaders are running into resistance from "balky lawmakers" and "fending off accusations that a prominent member is flouting new ethics rules."

    The Times says Democrats were forced to back off a promise to double the current one-year ban on lobbying by lawmakers once they leave office. They're also struggling to pass a bill that would require lobbyists to reveal campaign donations they collect and deliver, or "bundle," to lawmakers.

    Even some rules changes they have managed to pass "appear to have done little to alter business as usual." Only a party-line vote spared powerful Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania a censure for violating a new ethics rule that bans members from "swapping pork for votes."

    The Times says Republicans, who were pounded by Democrats in the last election over charges of corruption, are reveling in the reversal of fortune.

    Hospitals' Deadly Secrets Revealed

    One of the most closely guarded secrets in American medicine will soon be made public.

    USA Today reports that thanks to a bold federal initiative, hospital death rates will be disclosed on a government Web site starting in June.

    Most hospitals have guarded their death rates as closely as "the formulas for Kentucky Fried Chicken and Coke." But next month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin posting a comparison of death rates for heart attack and heart failure at more than 4,000 U.S. hospitals on its Web site, Hospital Compare.

    According to confidential data obtained by USA Today, the government's analysis contains some alarming findings suggesting that which hospital you choose may be a life or death decision. For example, the study found 42 hospitals where patients were more likely to die from heart attacks and heart failure than those who went elsewhere. At one hospital, the heart attack death rate was 24 percent, which topped the national rate by nearly 10 percentage points.

    Agreement Nears On Iraq Funding Bill

    (CBS/AP) Flinching in the face of a veto threat, Democratic congressional leaders neared agreement with the Bush administration Tuesday on legislation to pay for the Iraq war without setting a timeline for troop withdrawal.

    Several officials said the emerging compromise bill would cost about $120 billion, including as much as $8 billion, originally resisted by the White house, for Democratic domestic priorities such as disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina victims and farmers hurt by drought.

    The deal would be considered a victory for President Bush because there are no deadlines for troop withdrawals, reports CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. But that victory may be fleeting, as more and more Democrats and Republicans are considering September as an unwritten deadline, Attkisson reports.

    After a bruising veto struggle over war funding, congressional leaders in both political parties said they hoped the compromise would be cleared for President Bush's signature by Friday.

    Despite the concession, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters that the legislation would be the first war-funding bill sent to Mr. Bush since the U.S. invasion of Iraq "where he won't get a blank check."

    Reid and other Democrats pointed to a provision that would set standards for the Iraqi government in developing a more democratic society. U.S. reconstruction aid would be conditioned on progress toward meeting the goals, but Mr. Bush would have authority to order the money to be spent regardless of how the government in Baghdad performed.

    He said Democrats would look to a different defense bill later this summer to "continue our battle ・and that's what it is ・to represent the American people like they want us to represent them, to change the course of the war in Iraq."

    Republicans said that after weeks of struggle, they had forced Democrats to give up their demand for a date to withdraw the troops.

    "I'm optimistic that we will achieve the following: a full four-month funding bill without surrender dates. I think there's a good chance of that," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

    Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, added, "Democrats have finally conceded defeat in their effort to include mandatory surrender dates in a funding bill for the troops, so forward progress has been made for the first time in this four-month process."

    Republicans paid a price, too, in terms of billions of dollars in domestic spending that Democrats wrung from them and the administration.

    Officials said the final details of the measure remained in flux. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi intended to present the proposal to her rank and file at an evening meeting.

    In all, officials said the measure included about $17 billion more than Mr. Bush initially requested. Of the $17 billion, about $9 billion would go for defense-related items and veterans' health care. The balance would be for other domestic programs.

    Jimmy Carter To Bush: Never Mind

    (CBS/AP) Former President Jimmy Carter said Monday his remarks were "careless or misinterpreted" when he said the Bush administration has been the "worst in history" for its impact around the world.

    Speaking on NBC's "Today," Mr. Carter appeared to retreat from a statement he made to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in which he said: "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history." The comment was in a story published in the newspaper Saturday.

    Mr. Carter said Monday that when he made the comment, he was responding to a question comparing the Bush administration's foreign policy to that of Richard Nixon.

    "I think this administration's foreign policy compared to president Nixon's was much worse," Mr. Carter said. But he said he did not mean to call it the worst in history.

    "No, that's not what I wanted to say. I wasn't comparing this administration with other administrations back through history but just with President Nixon."

    Deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto, with Mr. Bush at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas, said Monday: "I think it just highlights the importance of being careful in choosing your words. I'll just leave it at that."

    The White House on Sunday dismissed Mr. Carter as "increasingly irrelevant" after his harsh criticism. In response, Carter said: "Well, I don't claim to have any relevancy. I have a completely unofficial capacity. The only thing I lead is the Carter Center."

    After the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story appeared, Carter spokeswoman Deanna Congileo had confirmed his comments to The Associated Press.

    "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me," the newspaper quoted Carter as saying.

    During a speech in March at George Washington University, Carter made similarly strong statements against the Bush administration's foreign policy record,'s Jennifer Hoar reported.

    "Since (Bill) Clinton left office, over the last six years, not one single day [has been devoted to] overtures to peace agreements," Carter said. "The current policy is leading to an immoral outcome."

    In his comments Monday, Mr. Carter said he has not been timid about sharing his opinions directly with the president and other world leaders, but said he has been careful not to level personal criticism against Mr. Bush.

    In the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette interview Mr. Carter came down hard on the Iraq war.

    "We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," he said. "But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies."

    Mr. Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, criticized Mr. Bush for having "zero peace talks" in Israel. Mr. Carter also said the administration "abandoned or directly refuted" every negotiated nuclear arms agreement, as well as environmental efforts by other presidents.

    Mr. Carter also offered a harsh assessment for the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which helped religious charities receive $2.15 billion in federal grants in fiscal year 2005 alone.

    "The policy from the White House has been to allocate funds to religious institutions, even those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion," Mr. Carter said. "As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one."

    White House Calls Carter "Irrelevant"

    President Jimmy Carter

    (AP) The White House on Sunday dismissed former President Jimmy Carter as "increasingly irrelevant" after his harsh criticism of President George W. Bush.

    Carter was quoted Saturday as saying "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history."

    The Democrat said Bush had overseen an "overt reversal of America's basic values" as expressed by previous administrations, including that of his own farther, former President George H.W. Bush.

    "I think it's sad that President Carter's reckless personal criticism is out there," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Sunday from Texas, where Bush spent the weekend.

    "I think it's unfortunate," Fratto said. "And I think he is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments."

    Carter made the comments to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions.

    Carter spokeswoman Deanna Congileo confirmed his comments to The Associated Press on Saturday and declined to elaborate.

    Carter: Bush Admin. Is "Worst In History"

    President Jimmy Carter

    (AP) Former President Carter says President Bush's administration is "the worst in history" in international relations, taking aim at the White House's policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy.

    The criticism from Carter, which a biographer says is unprecedented for the 39th president, also took aim at Bush's environmental policies and the administration's "quite disturbing" faith-based initiative funding.

    "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."

    Carter spokeswoman Deanna Congileo confirmed his comments to The Associated Press on Saturday and declined to elaborate. He spoke while promoting his new audiobook series, "Sunday Mornings in Plains," a collection of weekly Bible lessons from his hometown of Plains, Ga.

    "Apparently, Sunday mornings in Plains for former President Carter includes hurling reckless accusations at your fellow man," said Amber Wilkerson, Republican National Committee spokeswoman. She said it was hard to take Carter seriously because he also "challenged Ronald Reagan's strategy for the Cold War."

    Carter came down hard on the Iraq war.

    "We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," he said. "But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies."

    Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, criticized Bush for having "zero peace talks" in Israel. Carter also said the administration "abandoned or directly refuted" every negotiated nuclear arms agreement, as well as environmental efforts by other presidents.

    Carter also offered a harsh assessment for the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which helped religious charities receive $2.15 billion in federal grants in fiscal year 2005 alone.

    "The policy from the White House has been to allocate funds to religious institutions, even those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion," Carter said. "As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one."

    Douglas Brinkley, a Tulane University presidential historian and Carter biographer, described Carter's comments as unprecedented.

    "This is the most forceful denunciation President Carter has ever made about an American president," Brinkley said. "When you call somebody the worst president, that's volatile. Those are fighting words."

    Carter also lashed out Saturday at British prime minister Tony Blair. Asked how he would judge Blair's support of Bush, the former president said: "Abominable. Loyal. Blind. Apparently subservient."

    "And I think the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world," Carter told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

    White House Rejects Dems' Iraq Offer

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, right, makes a statement at the top of  Capitol Hill meeting on Iraq, Friday, May 18, 2007.

    (CBS/AP) The White House and Congress failed to strike a deal Friday after exchanging competing offers on an Iraq war spending bill that Democrats said should set a date for U.S. troops to leave.

    "Timelines for withdrawal are just not the right way to go, and that cannot be the basis for funding our troops," said Joshua Bolten, White House chief of staff, after a nearly 90-minute meeting on Capitol Hill.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said they offered to grant Bush the authority to waive the deadlines. They said they also suggested they would drop billions of dollars in proposed domestic spending that Bush opposed, in exchange for his acceptance of identifying a withdrawal date.

    The offer marked the Democrats' first major concessions in a weekslong battle with the White House on war funding.

    "To say I was disappointed in the meeting is an understatement," Reid, D-Nev., told reporters. "I really did expect that the president would accept some accountability for what we're trying to accomplish here."

    At stake is more than $90 billion the president says is needed to cover the costs of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. The Democratic-controlled Congress on May 1 sent Bush a bill that would have paid for the war but also would have demanded that troops start coming home by Oct. 1. Bush vetoed the measure that same day.

    The U.S. has spent more than $300 billion on Iraq military operations so far, according to a report Friday by the Government Accountability Office.

    For their part, the administration and congressional Republicans said they were willing to consider legislation that sets standards for the Iraqi government and possibly restricts U.S. aid if Baghdad fails to live up to its promises.

    The White House listed the 16 benchmarks it would demand of the Iraqi government ・such as laws to divide oil money and disarming militias, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod. For the first time, in this offer, if the benchmarks are not met by mid-September, Iraq would lose $2.1 billion in economic aid.

    In question, however, is whether the White House will accept binding consequences if the Iraqi government fails. Bush's aides say the president should be able to waive those restrictions ・an offer Democrats have said is too weak.

    According to GOP and Democratic aides, Pelosi and Reid did not reject Bolten's suggestion of setting benchmarks, but also did not embrace it. Their focus was identifying a date U.S. troops will leave Iraq, the aides said.

    Also not ruled out is that Democrats will send Bush next week another bill he might reject.

    "I was a little surprised that (the) Democratic leaders, at least so far, seem so dug in on that position" of setting a timetable, Bolten said. "Because it's a position that ... the president vetoed and which was sustained in" both chambers.

    The Democrats' insistence on a timetable comes as the party is under substantial pressure not to cede ground on the unpopular and costly war, in its fifth year. Particularly in the House, where a large number of members were elected last fall on anti-war platforms, many Democratic rank-and-file say they would oppose any legislation that does not advance the idea of bringing troops home.

    "It is clear that the difference between the Democrats and the president is the issue of accountability," said Pelosi, D-Calif. "He will not accept any accountability or responsibility for what has happened there."

    Attending the rare meeting on Capitol Hill was Bolten, White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley and White House budget director Rob Portman, as well as Reid, Pelosi, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Reps. Jerry Lewis and David Obey. Lewis, R-Calif., is the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee and Obey, D-Wis., is chairman.

    House Republican Leader John Boehner, who also attended, mocked the Democrats for offering to eliminate domestic spending ・money they once defended as crucial ・in exchange for troop withdrawals.

    "What a principled stand to take when we're talking about our men and women in uniform in Iraq taking on the enemy in a war that I think most Americans want to win," said Boehner, R-Ohio.

    Pelosi said negotiations with the White House were not dead, but she and Reid made it clear they would proceed in drafting a new bill to be voted on next week.

    The Democrats declined to say what their next bill will look like in light of Friday's meeting. But they insisted, as they have done for weeks, that nothing ・including a timetable on the war ・was off the table.

    "Our troops will be funded," she said.

    Wolfowitz On His Way Out At World Bank

    (CBS/AP) World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz will resign at the end of June, he and the bank said late Thursday, ending his long fight to survive pressure for his ouster over the generous compensation he arranged for his girlfriend.

    Wolfowitz agreed to resign, effective June 30, after the bank's executive directors issued a statement saying they accept his assurances that he "acted ethically and in good faith" when he arranged a promotion and pay raise for his girlfriend, reports CBS News radio correspondent Bill Whitney.

    His departure ends a two-year run at the development bank that was marked by controversy from the start, given his previous role as a major architect of the Iraq war when he served as the No. 2 official at the Pentagon.

    Wolfowitz was all but forced out, however, by the finding of a special bank panel that he violated conflict-of-interest rules in his handling of the 2005 pay package of bank employee Shaha Riza.

    The controversy, which gripped the bank for a month, was seen as a growing liability that threatened to tarnish the poverty-fighting institution's reputation and hobble its ability to persuade countries around the world to contribute billions of dollars to provide financial assistance to poor nations.

    By tradition, the World Bank has been run by an American. The Bush administration keenly wanted to keep that decades-old practice firmly intact as the board dealt with Wolfowitz's fate. The United States is the bank's largest shareholder and its biggest financial contributor.

    The White House said it would have a new candidate to announce soon, allowing for an orderly transition.

    Earlier Thursday, President Bush had seemed resigned to the likelihood that Wolfowitz would lose his job over the conflict-of-interest charges. "I regret that it's come to this," Bush said.

    In its statement, the bank's board said it was clear that a number of people had erred in reviewing Riza's pay package.

    Wolfowitz, who had fought the pressure to resign for weeks, had sought a recognition from the bank that he did not bear sole responsibility for the matter. In his own statement Thursday, Wolfowitz said he was pleased that the board "accepted my assurance that I acted ethically and in good faith in what I believed were the best interests of the institution, including protecting the rights of a valued staff member."

    Now, he said, it was in the best interest of the board that its mission "be carried forward under new leadership."

    The board's statement made no mention of any financial arrangements related to Wolfowitz's departure, nor did it address Riza's future.

    As a result of the controversy, the board pledged to review the World Bank's ethics policies, noting that "the bank's systems did not prove robust to the strain under which they were placed."

    Wolfowitz waged a vigorous battle to save his job and maintained he had acted in good faith.

    European nations had led the charge for Wolfowitz to resign. Those calls were backed by many on the bank's staff, former bank officials, aid groups and some Democratic politicians.

    Until near the end, the Bush administration had professed support for Wolfowitz. But in a shift on Tuesday, the White House indicated for the first time it was open to his departure. It was the same day Wolfowitz made a last-ditch plea to save his job before the board.

    Among those mentioned as a possible replacement for Wolfowitz are former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who was Bush's former trade chief; Robert Kimmitt, the No. 2 at the Treasury Department; Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; former Republican Congressman Jim Leach and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.; and Stanley Fischer, who once worked at the International Monetary Fund and is now with the Bank of Israel.

    Riza worked for the bank before Wolfowitz took over as president in June 2005. She was moved to the State Department to avoid a conflict of interest but stayed on the bank's payroll. Her salary went from close to $133,000 to $180,000. With subsequent raises, it eventually rose to $193,590. The panel concluded that the salary increase Riza received "at Mr. Wolfowitz's direction was in excess of the range" allowed under bank rules.

    Wolfowitz "placed himself in a conflict of interest situation" when he became involved in the terms and details of Riza's assignment and pay package and "he should have withdrawn from any decision-making in the matter," the panel said. Under Wolfowitz's contract as well as the code of conduct for board officials, he was required to avoid any conflict of interest, the report said.

    The panel acknowledged that the informal advice Wolfowitz received from the bank's ethics committee "was not a model of clarity."

    Still, the entire episode involving Wolfowitz's handling of the pay package "underscores that there is a crisis in the leadership of the bank," the panel said.

    Before taking over the bank nearly two years ago, Wolfowitz was the No. 2 official at the Pentagon and played a lead role in mapping the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

    Bush tapped Wolfowitz for the job, a move that was approved by the bank's board even though Europeans didn't like him because of his role in the Iraq war.

    The 185-nation World Bank, created in 1945 to rebuild Europe after World War II, provides more than $20 billion a year for projects such as building dams and roads, bolstering education and fighting disease. The bank's centerpiece program offers interest-free loans to the poorest countries.

    Senate Rejects Bill Cutting War Funds

    (AP) The Senate on Wednesday rejected legislation that would cut off money for combat operations in Iraq after March 31, 2008.

    The vote was a loss for Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and other Democrats who want to end the war. But the effort picked up support from members, including presidential hopefuls previously reluctant to limit war funding ・an indication of the conflict's unpopularity among voters.

    The proposal lost 29-67 on a procedural vote, falling 31 votes short of the necessary votes to advance.

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential front-runner, previously opposed setting a deadline on the war. But she said she agreed to back the measure "because we, as a united party, must work together with clarity of purpose and mission to begin bringing our troops home and end this war."

    Sen. Barack Obama, another leading 2008 prospect, said he would prefer a plan that offers more flexibility but wanted "to send a strong statement to the Iraqi government, the president and my Republican colleagues that it's long past time to change course."

    The proposal had been expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to advance under Senate rules, but was intended to gauge the tolerance of members on anti-war legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid staged a series of war votes Wednesday to inform negotiations with the House on a war spending bill.

    "We stand united.... in our belief that troops are enmeshed in an intractable civil war," said Reid, D-Nev.

    Feingold's measure, co-sponsored by Reid and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., proved divisive for Democrats.

    Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he opposes any measure that cuts off money for the war.

    "We don't want to send the message to the troops" that Congress does not support them, said Levin, D-Mich. "We're going to support those troops."

    But other Democrats said the move was necessary.

    "I'm not crazy about the language in the Feingold amendment, but I am crazy about the idea that we have to keep the pressure on," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who also wants the Democratic presidential nomination.

    The Senate vote on Feingold's legislation was one of several expected Wednesday, as the Democratic-controlled Congress struggles to clear legislation for Mr. Bush's signature by the end of next week to continue U.S. military operations through Sept. 30.

    The House last week passed legislation funding the war on two separate, 60-day installments.

    The Senate must take the next step by passing its own measure. Given the political forces at work, that legislation will be a placeholder, its only purpose to trigger three-way negotiations involving the House, Senate and Bush administration on a final compromise.

    As a result, officials said Tuesday that Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had discussed jointly advancing a bill so barebones that it would contain no funds and do little more than express congressional support for the troops.

    Negotiations on the final compromise are expected to take days.

    Wednesday's votes on Feingold and other proposals "will provide strong guidance to our conferees and help shape the conference negotiations we have ahead of us," said Reid.

    In addition to Feingold's measure, members were expected to vote on legislation by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., that would threaten billions of dollars in U.S. aid for Iraq if Baghdad does not make progress on certain military and political reforms.

    Reid said he would oppose Warner's measure because it doesn't go far enough; the proposal would allow the president to waive the restriction on foreign aid.

    "It is nothing," said Reid.

    Levin pulled from the floor his proposal to set an Oct. 1 date to begin troop withdrawals, but allow the president to waive that requirement. He had pitched the idea with the expectation that the president would accept it because of the waiver; but, Levin said Wednesday he had been advised by the White House that the president would veto the measure regardless.

    Bush Chooses "War Czar"

    (AP) President George W. Bush has chosen Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the Defense Department's director of operations, to oversee the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as a "war czar" after a long search for new leadership, administration officials said Tuesday.

    It was a difficult job to fill, given the unpopularity of the war, now in its fifth year, and uncertainty about how much power the war coordinator would have. The search was complicated by demands from Congress to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and scant public support for the war. The White House tried for weeks to fill the position and approached numerous candidates before settling on Lute.

    In the newly created position, Lute would serve as an assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser, and would also maintain his military status and rank as a three-star Army general, according to a Pentagon official.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Mr. Bush had not yet made an announcement.

    Creation of the new job comes as the administration tries to use a combat troop buildup in Iraq to bring a degree of calm so political reconciliation can take hold.

    The White House has sought a war coordinator to eliminate conflicts among the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies ・and to speak for the president when new entanglements arise from the war zone.

    The addition will help Stephen Hadley, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, who monitors hot spots around the world.

    Mr. Bush's move is part of a lengthy reshuffling of war leaders. Yet critics have questioned whether a new coordinator will help so late in the Bush presidency, and may even add confusion in the chain of command.

    Lute's appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

    Until now, Hadley and other West Wing officials have tried to keep turf-conscious agencies marching in the same direction on military, political and reconstruction fronts in Iraq. Meanwhile, the public's patience for the war has long eroded, and lawmakers, including members of Mr. Bush's own party, are pushing a harder line to ensure that the Iraqi government is making progress toward self-governance.

    The Bush administration has avoided the term "war czar." Lute's title would be assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan policy and implementation.

    Lute became director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September. Before that, he served for more than two years as director of operations at U.S. Central Command, during which he oversaw combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with other regions.

    A West Point graduate, Lute has had an extensive military career. He saw combat in the 1991 Gulf War.

    From 1998 to 2000 he commanded the Second Cavalry Regiment. He served next as the executive assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for 14 months before joining the First Infantry Division in Schweinfurt, Germany, as the assistant division commander. He also served in Kosovo for 6 months in 2002 before being assigned to U.S. European Command in January 2003.

    Rice: No "New Cold War" With Russia

    (AP) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that it is "not any easy" time in Russia-U.S. relations, but that the tensions do not amount to a new Cold War.

    "I don't throw around terms like 'new Cold War,"' Rice said on her way to Moscow for a visit amid growing tensions underlined by President Vladimir Putin's increasing criticism of the United States. "It is a big, complicated relationship, but it is not one that is anything like the implacable hostility" that clouded ties between the United States and the Soviet Union.

    "It is not an easy time in the relationship, but it is also not, I think, a time in which cataclysmic things are affecting the relationship or catastrophic things are happening in the relationship," Rice told reporters aboard her plane. "But it is critically important to use this time to enhance those things that are going well and to work on those things that are not going well."

    Washington's relations with Moscow are troubled by sharp disagreements on specific issues ・in particular the U.S. proposal to place elements of a missile defense system in former Soviet satellite countries ・and by a clear rise in the Kremlin's suspicion of American intentions worldwide.

    Russian officials bristle at U.S. criticism of a perceived Kremlin rollback of democracy and complain that Washington is interfering in the country's internal affairs by funding pro-democracy groups. Russia also accuses the U.S. of trying to dominate international affairs.

    In an address on the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, Putin last week denounced "disrespect for human life, claims to global exclusiveness and dictate, just as it was in the time of the Third Reich."

    Rice suggested Russian officials' sometimes emotionally charged wording of their complaints is not constructive, saying she has urged her counterparts to avoid "rhetoric that suggests the relationship is one of hostility."

    She couched criticism of Russia's democratic progress under Putin with a caveat alluding to the country's troubled history.

    "This is a big and complex place that is going through a major historic transformation ... things are not going to change overnight, but frankly we would like to see them change faster than they are changing, and for the better," Rice said.

    Waiting In The Wings: Al Gore

    (CBS) Al Gore could not be clearer.

    "I don't plan to run," he said on The Daily Show, a phrase he has repeated several times.

    But diehard fans are unconvinced, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

    "Al Gore is the most qualified," said Adam Belanoff.

    Belanoff joined the Los Angeles chapter of "," a nationwide group pushing the seemingly impossible: to get former Vice President Al Gore to run for president ・again.

    "If enough people out there say 'Run Al, we believe you,' I think he'll throw his hat in the ring," said Heather Allyn, a Draft Gore member.

    Their Web site boasts 70,000 signatures on its Draft Gore petition.

    The L.A. group meets once a month at an outdoor market. While others dine, they strategize.

    "We need to be a fast response type of campaign," Patrick McGovern told Whitaker.

    "I'm not convinced by any of the other candidates by a mile," said Derek Bevil, another Draft Gore member.

    Eighty-four year old Hilda Rolfe's first vote was for FDR, when the country was at war.

    "Right now I feel the same way, that this country is in terrible trouble," said Rolfe.

    When Al Gore says he doesn't plan to run, the folks at say that's not the same as saying he definitely won't run. Plans change, and with 18 months until Election Day, he still has time to change his mind.

    "In a way he's a cult figure," Josh Kraushaar of tells Whitaker. "He wouldn't have any trouble raising money immediately if he decided to jump into the race."

    That's a big change from the days when he was mocked as a boring fanatic.

    "You know why I call him ozone man?" asked the first President George Bush years ago.

    Now he's the star of an Oscar-winning documentary on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth." He's so hot he's cheered on one of the coolest shows on TV. Here's a recent exchange between Mr. Gore and Daily Show host Jon Stewart:

    JS: "Al Gore walks into a Hollywood movie producer's office and says I've got an idea for a film combining the mainstream appeal of climate science with the non-stop action of Al Gore giving a lecture."

    AG: "You forgot the slide show."

    Gore says his movie was a hit because the time was right. says the time couldn't be better for Al Gore to run for president.

    Ex-General: Iraq Hurting National Guard

    Kansas National Guard, in Greensburg, Kan., May 7, 2007

    (AP) The National Guard isn't as strong as it should be because of the war in Iraq and American communities will suffer as a result, retired Air Force Gen. Melvyn Montano said Saturday.

    Delivering the Democrats' weekly radio address, Montano said the strain means it will take longer for Greensburg, Kan., to recover from a devastating tornado that leveled the town a week ago.

    "Crucial equipment used by the Guard for disaster relief is now in Iraq instead of standing ready to respond to crises here at home," said Montano, who was once adjutant general of the New Mexico National Guard.

    "When the tornado struck Kansas last week, the Guard had half the number of Humvees and large trucks they usually would have at their disposal," Montano said. "The recovery process now will take longer."

    Montano echoed Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, who clashed with the Bush administration this week. " I don't think there is any question if you are missing trucks, Humvees and helicopters that the response (to the tornado) is going to be slower," she said Monday. "The real victims here will be the residents of Greensburg, because the recovery will be at a slower pace."Sebelius later said the Guard was adequately equipped to handle the disaster, though possible flooding in another part of the state would have forced her to make hard choices about where to send aid.

    Judge OKs Immunity For Ex-Justice Aide

    Alberto Gonzales

    (AP) A federal judge approved an immunity deal Friday allowing former Justice Department aide Monica Goodling to testify before Congress about the firing of eight top federal prosecutors.

    Goodling, who served as the department's White House liaison, has refused to discuss the firings without a guarantee that she will not be prosecuted. Congress agreed to the deal, Justice Department investigators reluctantly agreed to not oppose it and U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan gave it final approval Friday.

    "Monica Goodling may not refuse to testify," Hogan began his brief order, which said that Goodling could not be prosecuted for anything other than perjury in connection with her testimony.

    Lawmakers want to question Goodling as part of an inquiry into whether the Justice Department played politics with the hiring and firing of department officials. What began as an inquiry into whether U.S. attorneys were fired for political reasons has grown to include the role of the White House in the firings and whether the Justice Department officials misled Congress about them.

    Goodling's lawyer has said that, with an immunity deal, she would cooperate and testify honestly.

    Justice spokesman Dean Boyd confirmed earlier this month that the department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility were investigating Goodling's role in hiring career attorneys ・an unusual responsibility for her to have had.

    Investigators are trying to determine whether Goodling "may have taken prohibited considerations into account during such review," Boyd told the AP. "Whether or not the allegation is true is currently the subject of the OIG/OPR investigation."

    Three government officials with knowledge of the investigation said Goodling appears to have sought information about party affiliation while vetting applicants for assistant U.S. attorneys' jobs. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

    House Defies Bush On Iraq Funding

    (CBS/AP) The Democratic-controlled House voted Thursday night to pay for military operations in Iraq on an installment plan, defying President Bush's threat of a second straight veto in a fierce test of wills over the unpopular war.

    The 221-205 vote, largely along party lines, sent the measure to a cool reception in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is seeking compromise with the White House and Republicans on a funding bill.

    Under increasing political pressure from Republicans, Mr. Bush also signalled flexibility, offering to accept a spending bill that sets out standards for the Iraqi government to meet.

    Time's running out, because the longer we wait the more strain we're going to put on the military,・said the president, who previously had insisted on what he termed a war funding bill.

    Mr. Bush and key lawmakers have stepped up expressions of frustration with the government in Baghdad in recent weeks, and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh spent his day in a series of meetings with key senators appealing for patience.

    In a brief interview with The Associated Press, Saleh said the purpose of the meetings was to convey the 妬mperative of success against terrorism and extremism・in the Middle East.

    Despite Mr. Bush's ability to sustain his vetoes in Congress ・the House upheld his rejection of a troop withdrawal timetable last week ・Democrats called for votes on two separate bills Thursday that challenged him on the war.

    Democrats are not going to give the president a blank check for a war without end,・vowed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

    The key is deciding what happens if Iraqis don't meet the standards set, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod.

    Democrats want consequences for failure, but the president won't go that far yet, although he has instructed top aides to negotiate with Congress on that point, Axelrod reports.

    The first measure would have required the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq within nine months. It fell, 255-171, with 59 Democrats joining almost all Republicans in opposition.

    This war is a terrible tragedy and it is time to bring it to an end,・said Rep. James McGovern, leading advocate of the bill to establish a nine-month withdrawal timetable. For four long, deadly years, this administration and their allies in Congress have been flat wrong about Iraq,・said the Massachusetts Democrat.

    Republicans argued that a withdrawal would be disastrous.

    Now is not the time to signal retreat and surrender. How could this Congress walk away from our men and women in uniform,・said Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif.

    A few hours later, the House passed legislation providing funds for the war grudgingly, in two installments. The first portion would cover costs until Aug. 1 ・$42.8 billion to buy equipment and train Iraqi and Afghan security forces.

    Under the bill, it would take a summertime vote by Congress to free an additional $52.8 billion, the money needed to cover costs through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.

    We reject that idea. It won't work,・the president declared after a meeting with military leaders at the Pentagon.

    Democratic officials, speaking privately, said Pelosi had agreed to allow the vote on the withdrawal measure in the hope that her rank-and-file would then unite behind the funding bill.

    But in an increasingly complex political environment, even that measure was deemed to be dead on arrival in the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow advantage and the rules give Republicans leverage to block legislation.

    White House Vows Another Iraq Veto

    President Bush

    (CBS/AP) Eight days after the president vetoed the war funding bill, he's threatening to do so again, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

    White House press secretary Tony Snow said Wednesday that the Democrats' latest version of the measure is unacceptable.

    The Democrats' proposal would pay for the war through July, then give Congress the option of cutting off money after that if conditions do not improve. Mr. Bush requested more than $90 billion to fund the war through September.

    "There are restrictions on funding and there are also some of the spending items that were mentioned in the first veto message that are still in the bill," Snow said on Air Force One traveling with Mr. Bush.

    Asked directly if Mr. Bush would veto the House bill in its current form, Snow said, "Yes."

    The veto threat came as Defense Secretary Robert Gates held out hope that troops could begin withdrawing if the Iraqi government makes progress by fall.

    Gates told a Senate committee that if violence in Iraq declines enough to allow the government to move forward, including steps toward political reconciliation, the U.S. could begin pulling troops out.

    The Pentagon, said Gates, is "looking for the direction of events ・we don't have to have it all locked in place and everything complete ... If (we) see some very positive progress and it looks like things are heading in the right direction, then that's the point at which I think we can begin to consider reducing some of those forces."

    He added that "getting the level of violence in Iraq to point where the political process can go forward and seeing some progress in reconciliation sets the stage for us to begin withdrawing our units ... and allowing those security responsibilities to be assumed by the Iraqis."

    Senators pressed Gates on reports that commanders in Iraq may want to wait until next April to make an assessment of the buildup. But Gates insisted that the evaluation will be in September, although he added that he didn't know what the result would be.

    "What are the prospects for having some light at the end of the tunnel, to see some encouragement which would enable the Congress to have the fortitude to support the president and go beyond September and the full funding of the $500 billion?" asked Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

    Gates replied, "I think that the honest answer is, Senator, that I don't know."

    Gates also told the panel that proposals for a short-term funding bill would be very disruptive and "have a huge impact" on contracts to repair and replace equipment. The Defense Department, he said, just doesn't "have the agility to manage a two month appropriation."

    "I essentially have 10,000 faucets all running money," Gates said. "Turning them on and off with precision and on a day-to-day basis, or even a month-to-month basis, gets very difficult." And, he said that if Congress votes again in July, but rejects the funding bill, "I would have to shut down significant elements of the Department of Defense in August and September because I wouldn't have the money to pay salaries."

    White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said White House chief of staff Josh Bolten had "another good meeting" with Senate leaders on the matter.

    "We remain hopeful we can achieve a deal, and the president's chief of staff remains open to meeting with anyone, anytime, anywhere to bring closure to this process," she said.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., emerged from the closed-door meeting to say no deal was struck.

    Bolten's meeting Wednesday with Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lasted about an hour, and revealed a slightly different tone and approach in the Senate than in the House, said a senior administration official who was in the session and spoke on condition of anonymity to speak more freely about private discussions.

    The talk was mostly about the process of getting a bill through both chambers and to the president, but there also were some substantive discussions about content that the official would not detail. The White House's view is that Democrats in the Senate and House need to better coordinate where they want to go with a bill, but this is not preventing Bolten from talking about specifics in the meantime, the official said.

    Mr. Bush vetoed an earlier bill because it set deadlines for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq.

    The short-term funding bill is backed by House Democrats, but is unlikely to survive the Senate, where Democrats hold a slimmer majority and several of them do not support funding the war in brief installments.

    House Democrats Pitch New Iraq Plan

    (CBS/AP) House Democratic leaders planned to brief party members Tuesday on new legislation that would fund the Iraq war through July, then give Congress the option of cutting off money after that if conditions do not improve.

    If, as expected, members agree to back the plan, a vote on the new war spending bill could come as early as this week. The proposal, pitched last week by Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., was first disclosed Thursday by The Associated Press.

    White House spokesman Tony Snow on Tuesday called the approach "just bad management."

    Snow said the Democratic plan may delay the deployments of some personnel and prolong others, and though he didn't mention the word veto, he made clear that President Bush wants his full funding bill enacted soon, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

    Congressional Republicans immediately dismissed the Democratic proposal as unfairly rationing funds needed in combat and said their members would not support it.

    Democrats "should not treat our men and women in uniform like they are children who are getting a monthly allowance," said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, his party's leader.

    Added Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., after a GOP caucus meeting Tuesday: "It's a irresponsible approach. You do not fund wars 60 days at a time."

    House Democrats want to provide a bill that supports the troops, but not give Mr. Bush a blank check. Further complicating matters, several House liberals oppose funding the war at all, while other more conservative Democrats are reluctant to tie strings to a bill needed by the troops.

    The new version is likely to meet resistance in the Senate. Several Senate Democrats said they would oppose a short-term funding bill because it leaves open the question of whether troops will get the resources they need after July.

    "There's the question of why it wasn't fully funded," said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

    If the House version of the bill fails in conference with the Senate, Democratic leaders say their members will have other chances to affect Iraq policy. Party leaders have pointed to the 2008 defense authorization bill, which helps to set Pentagon policy, as well as the 2008 appropriations bills.

    However, that plan could meet resistance by members reluctant to watch their carefully crafted bills sink under a presidential veto. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has drafted a defense authorization bill that requires U.S. officials to report on progress made on the war. But according to a panel aide familiar with the draft, the bill so far does not include a tough mandate to end the war.

    Queen attends White House dinner

    Queen Elizabeth II greets U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,

    The Queen and Prince Philip have arrived for a state banquet at the White House during their US visit.

    The monarch and her husband are guests of honour at the dinner hosted by US President George W Bush and wife Laura.

    A total of 134 guests were due to attend the state dinner - the first in Mr Bush's presidency to have a white tie dress code.

    Earlier, the Queen was honoured with a 21-gun salute in Washington DC on the final leg of her six-day US visit.

    Standing outside the White House, the Queen said Britain and America had a "close and enduring" friendship and Mr Bush called his guest "a good person, a strong leader and a great ally".

    The state visit has included trips to the site of the first permanent English settlement in the US and the famous Kentucky Derby horse race.

    The monarch also reflected on how "the stories of our two countries have been inextricably woven together".

    She called the US a "great nation" and said it was time to "take stock of our present friendship".

    "It is the time to look forward, jointly renewing our commitment to a more prosperous, safer and freer world," she added.

    Mr Bush, meanwhile, joked with the Queen after making a mistake in his speech.

    He said: "You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17... 1976" , and then joked the Queen had given him "a look that only a mother could give a child".

    The president said the UK had "written many of the greatest chapters in the history of human freedom".

    He said its relationship with the US was built "on the surest foundations - our deep and abiding love of liberty".

    The Queen was last in Washington in 1991 when George Bush Snr was the American president.

    Earlier in the trip, the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, fulfilled a long-held ambition to watch the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Louisville.

    Her visit to the first permanent English settlement in the US, in Jamestown, Virginia, marked its 400th anniversary.

    In Virginia, the Queen extended her sympathies to those affected by the shootings at Virginia Tech last month.

    The tour is the Queen's first carbon-offset state visit, where a donation is made to an environmental charity to offset the plane journeys made by the royal party.

    Rangel: Bush Must Compromise On Iraq

    Newt Gingrich and Charles Rangel on Face The Nation, May 6, 2007

    (CBS) As top White House aides and Congressional leaders try to find a way past the political standoff over funding the Iraq war, a powerful House Democrat says President Bush is the one who will have to blink first.

    "Our leadership had hoped that, meeting with the president, that we could see some compromise," Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said on Face The Nation. "But as long as the president refuses to do anything except stay the course, then we, in the House ... would constantly send a message to the president that we want him to come up with some idea to withdraw the troops."

    Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, says there is no way his party is giving up its fight, even though President Bush vetoed the first bill that called for bringing the troops home from Iraq in October.

    "It would be ridiculous to think that we're going to just drop this fight," Rangel said. "This is not our fight. This is the American people's fight. They asked us to send a message to the president."

    Last week, Bush vetoed a $124 billion bill to provided money for Iraq and Afghanistan operations in part because it required troops to begin returning home by Oct. 1, saying the fixed date is unworkable.

    Also last week, presidential candidate Sen. Hilary Clinton, D-N.Y., called for a repeal of the authorization the Congress gave the president to go to Iraq.

    "Well, I think, frankly, it made her look foolish," former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told Bob Schieffer. "If she's serious about it, then move to cut off the funds. If they can't cut off the funds, then let's get on with trying to win the war. But I think this middle zone of politics while young Americans die is very bad for the country."

    Congress can continue to try to push forward a timetable, Gingrich said, but the president will veto it every time. He said it's more important to get money to the troops when the United States remains the war, otherwise their safety and morale will be undermined.

    "We should always make certain that those dedicated, brave people are protected no matter what," Rangel said. "And if you don't believe this country is strong enough to make certain that they can safely return home, then we're not being realistic."

    But Rangel said the American people have showed how they feel about the war with the 2006 elections and it's time to think about how to leave. He said the U.S. should reach out to friends in Europe and the Middle East and work for a peaceful solution.

    "We must follow the people's mandate and do everything that we can to send a message to President Bush that we want to stop the war and we want to bring the troops home," he said. "So if you want to talk about repealing his authority or cutting the funds or setting a timetable, whatever has to be done, he has to stop listening to Dick Cheney."

    Most importantly, Rangel said it's time for Americans to stop being placed in the middle of what he called a civil war.

    "These people have been fighting each other for centuries," Rangel said. "Who in the devil thinks that we know enough or we're sophisticated enough to stop the civil war that exists there?"

    Deadlock: Bush, Dems Demand New Iraq Bill

    President Bush speaks to the Associated General Contractors of America meeting in Washington

    (CBS/AP) President George W. Bush, urging Congress to craft a war spending bill quickly, offered no clues Saturday about whether he will compromise over linking U.S. support to stability in Iraq.

    Bush and Congress have been talking about how to agree on a bill to finance combat operations through September. The president demands the money without strings attached, but Democrats say Bush eventually must accept some conditions on the U.S. commitment to the unpopular war.

    Both sides say they want compromise. But it's clear each is still trying to gain the upper hand, reports CBS News correspondent Joie Chen.

    的t is clear that at this early point in the negotiations, nothing is off the table,・Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Friday.

    Some Republicans are also calling for benchmarks, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine has put forth a plan that sets six benchmarks, including full Iraqi control of its military, a law to disarm militias, and a plan to distribute oil revenue. There's a four month deadline to meet the benchmarks and failure would trigger a phased troop withdrawal ・starting with those troops most recently deployed as part of the president's surge.

    I know the president has argued against any consequences associated with the benchmark, but I think the time has come to insure that the Iraqi government understands that the military surge was designed to give the government the opportunity to negotiate these political compromises that will achieve national reconciliation,・she told Axelrod.

    Earlier this week, Bush vetoed a $124 billion bill that would have provided money for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan while requiring troops to begin returning home by Oct. 1.

    "I vetoed the bill Congress sent me because it set a fixed date to begin to pull out of Iraq, imposed unworkable conditions on our military commanders and included billions of dollars in spending unrelated to the war," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

    Sen. Charles Schumer said Bush's veto would not deter Democrats from finding other ways to achieve their two goals of fully supporting the troops while dramatically changing the U.S. mission in Iraq.

    "Mr. President, we know you oppose the resolution that Congress sent you last week, but on behalf of the American people and our soldiers, we ask you to work with us to find a way to both fund the troops and change the mission," Schumer said Saturday in the Democrats' weekly radio address.

    Bush said that while Republicans and Democrats will not always agree on the war, the consequences of failure in Iraq are clear.

    "If we were to leave Iraq before the government can defend itself, there would be a security vacuum in the country," Bush warned. "Extremists from all factions could compete to fill that vacuum, causing sectarian killing to multiply on a horrific scale."

    Schumer said Democrats won't back down in their push to persuade Bush to change U.S. policy in Iraq so American troops can get out of the business of policing a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites.

    "I know how strongly the president feels that he is right, but if he looked at the facts on the ground, he would come to the conclusion that most Americans have ・we need a change in direction," Schumer said.

    The president urged Congress to give the new war strategy he announced in January a chance to work.

    Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is leading the military buildup of 21,500 more U.S. troops in Iraq. The administration hopes the extra security provided by the troops in Baghdad and Anbar Province will give the Iraqis time to mend sectarian fractures within the government and resolve other reconciliation issues.

    Sen. Snowe, on a trip to Baghdad with other lawmakers, said she is not convinced that the Iraqi leaders have a sense of urgency about achieving political reconciliation. She said she told Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the country's most powerful Shiite political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, that the Iraqi parliament should refrain from taking a recess this summer.

    "As we are doing the military surge, we should have a political surge by the government," Snowe said on a conference call with reporters.

    "They (U.S. troops) should not be on the front lines while the parliament is at recess for two months," she said.

    Standoff On Iraq Funding Bill Continues

    (AP) Congressional Democrats have signaled they're not ready to back down in their confrontation with President Bush on Iraq, spurring Republicans to accuse them of causing political gridlock.

    Mr. Bush and Congress have been discussing a possible compromise on a war spending bill needed to finance combat operations through September. The president demands the money without strings attached, and so far has found strong Republican support. But Democrats say the president eventually will have to accept some conditions on the U.S. commitment in Iraq because of the war's unpopularity among voters.

    For the first time, Mr. Bush dispatched his top aides to Capitol Hill this week to sit down with Democratic leaders to discuss the war.

    "It has taken almost 4 1/2 years, but it appears the president finally is willing to consider what most Americans and members of Congress have long known: We must change course in Iraq and move toward a strategy that will make our country more secure," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement released Friday.

    Negotiations are expected to continue early next week, but it's unclear is whether a compromise can be struck.

    In a flash of defiance, House Democratic leaders on Thursday weighed a proposal that would guarantee the war money only through July. After that, Congress could block additional money from being spent if the Iraqi government does not meet certain political and security goals.

    The proposal, not yet endorsed and outlined for only a few members, would be a direct challenge to the president and could prompt another presidential veto. Earlier this week, Mr. Bush vetoed a $124.2 billion bill that would have provided money for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan while requiring troops to begin coming home by Oct. 1.

    House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, views a short-term funding bill as a nonstarter, said spokesman Brian Kennedy.

    "We don't consider this a serious compromise," Kennedy said Friday. "It will create gridlock in Washington at a time when the troops need support fast, which is the functional equivalent of the 'slow-bleed' approach Democrats started with four months ago. They appear to be moving backward, not forward."

    Democrats contend they will provide troops the resources they need and will send Mr. Bush a bill by the end of the month. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has reported that the Army has enough bookkeeping flexibility to fund war operations until about July, although the lack of cash would cause problems in other areas.

    Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., suggested the short-term funding bill in a closed-door leadership meet Thursday. Under Obey's proposal, members would vote separately on whether to fund some of the domestic spending in the Iraq bill that Bush opposed, such as agricultural assistance.

    The plan was described by Democratic aides who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plan. According to a senior Democratic leadership aide, the plan has not been endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or in the Senate.

    The move likely would appease a large number of House Democrats who are reluctant to vote for a war spending bill unless it moves toward getting troops out of Iraq. Such a plan would signal to caucus members that the speaker was not willing to back down to the president and, at the same time, support the troops.

    While the House could narrowly pass the measure, it is unlikely to find similar backing in the Senate, where some leading Democrats say they want to fund the war through September.

    One option for Pelosi would be to pass the bill only to agree to drop it later when it must be negotiated in the Senate.

    Numerous other ideas are being floated in the Senate, most of which involve some combination of goals the Iraqi government must reach. The key impasse, however, is whether to require the withdrawal of U.S. troops if the benchmarks are not met.

    Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Robert Byrd of West Virginia proposed a measure to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing force in Iraq. Under the bill, President Bush would be required in October to seek Congress' blessing to continue operations in Iraq.

    "If the president will not bring himself to accept reality, it is time for Congress to bring reality to him," said Clinton, a presidential contender for 2008.

    White House spokeswoman Dana Perino immediately shot down Clinton's proposal as "troubling" in light of ongoing negotiations.

    "Here we go again," Perino said in a statement. "The Senate is trying another way to put a surrender date on the calendar. Welcome to politics, '08-style."

    Obama Under Secret Service Protection

    U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, new hampshire, democratic primary,

    (CBS/AP) The Secret Service said Thursday that Democratic Sen. Barack Obama was being placed under its protection, the earliest that's ever happened for a presidential candidate.

    Representatives of Obama's campaign confirmed to CBS News' Steve Chaggaris that the senator is under Secret Service protection, but would not elaborate further.

    Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff authorized protection for Obama after consultations with the congressional advisory committee.

    Zahren would not provide details of what led to the extra security, but said, "I'm not aware it was based on any threat."

    Obama's rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, has a Secret Service detail that is provided to all former first ladies.

    In the last election, Democratic candidates John Kerry and John Edwards received their protection in February 2004 as they were competing for the party's nomination. Obama's detail comes nine months before the first votes are cast.

    Federal law allows candidates to seek protection if they meet a series of standards, including public prominence as measured by polls and fundraising.

    In a February interview with 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft, Obama's wife, Michelle, addressed the possibility that her husband could be the target of an assassination attempt. "I don't lose sleep over it because the realities are that, you know, as a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station, you know," she said. "So you can't make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen. We just weren't raised that way."

    In a Feb. 12 interview with The Associated Press, Obama dismissed concerns about his own security but would not answer directly when asked if he had received death threats. The Rev. Jesse Jackson drew early Secret Service protection because of violent threats during his campaigns for president in the 1980s.

    "I face the same security issues as anybody," the senator told the AP. "We're comfortable with the steps we have taken."

    Bush Vetoes Iraq Funding Bill

    (CBS/AP) President Bush vetoed legislation to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq Tuesday night in a historic showdown with Congress over whether the unpopular and costly war should end or escalate.

    In only the second veto of his presidency, Mr. Bush rejected legislation pushed by Democratic leaders that would require the first U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by Oct. 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

    "This is a prescription for chaos and confusion and we must not impose it on our troops," Bush said in a nationally broadcast statement from the White House. He said the bill would "mandate a rigid and artificial deadline" for troop pullouts, and "it makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing."

    Democrats made a last-minute plea for Mr. Bush to sign the bill, knowing their request would be ignored. "The president has put our troops in the middle of a civil war," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Reality on the ground proves what we all know: A change of course is needed."

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the legislation "respects the wishes of the American people to end the Iraq war."

    A Senate Democrat says they've pushed their demand for troop deadlines as far as they can, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod. Democrats know they don't have the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto.

    Lacking the votes to override the president, Democratic leaders quietly considered what might be included or kept out of their next version of the $124 billion spending bill. Mr. Bush will meet with congressional leaders ・Democrats and Republicans alike ・on Wednesday to discuss a new bill.

    Mr. Bush said Democrats had made a political statement by passing anti-war legislation. "They've sent their message, and now it's time to put politics behind us and support our troops with the funds," the president said.

    He said the need to act is urgent because without a war-funding bill, the armed forces will have to consider cutting back on buying or repairing equipment.

    "Our troops and their families deserve better, and their elected leaders can do better," Mr. Bush said.

    He vetoed the bill immediately upon his return to the White House from a visit to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., the headquarters of U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, including Iraq.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Democratic congressional leaders sent Mr. Bush legislation setting timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq. The move came on the fourth anniversary of Mr. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech on the war.

    The Democratic leaders staged a special ceremony to send the legislation ・already approved by both the House and Senate ・on its way to the White House.

    On Wednesday, Mr. Bush is to meet at the White House with congressional leaders from both parties, including Reid, D-Nev., and Pelosi, D-Calif., to begin discussing follow-up spending legislation.

    "This legislation honors the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform," Pelosi said at the ceremony in the Capitol. She said that provisions of the measure respect "the wishes of the American people to end the Iraq war."

    Said Reid: "After more than four years of a failed policy, it's time for Iraq to take responsibility for its own future. Today, right now, we renew our call to President Bush: There is still time to listen. There is still time to sign this bill and change course in Iraq."

    Some Republicans say they would support tying benchmarks to the more than $5 billion provided to Iraq in foreign aid, but nothing that would tie the hands of military commanders. It's not clear whether the White House is open to this approach, either. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said over the weekend that Mr. Bush would not sign a bill containing any penalties for the Iraqi government.

    "House Republicans will oppose any bill that includes provisions that undermine our troops and their mission, whether it's benchmarks for failure, arbitrary readiness standards or a timetable for American surrender," said Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

    Clinton Drops Rodham

    (AP) While she is known to millions simply as "Hillary," New York's junior senator is having something of an identity crisis in her official life.

    When it comes to running for president, she is "Hillary Clinton," according to her campaign Web site. But when it comes to her official Senate releases, she is still "Hillary Rodham Clinton."

    The Clinton camp appeared to be at a loss to come up with an explanation when the Albany Times Union newspaper asked about it.

    "I haven't, I haven't," Clinton said with laugh when asked about her apparent name change.

    A strategic decision? Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson told the newspaper: "That's a fair question, but there's no plan behind it."

    The name game has been going on for some time in Clinton's world.

    When Hillary Rodham married Bill Clinton in 1975, she kept using her maiden name as he pursued his political career in Arkansas and she built her reputation as a lawyer in Little Rock. But, in the wake of his loss in a re-election race for governor, she began using "Hillary Clinton." He won back the governorship.

    "Hillary Rodham Clinton" became the standard in 1993 as the Clintons moved into the White House. She continued to use that when she ran for the U.S. Senate from New York in 2000.

    Rice: Bush Will Not Give In On Iraq Bill

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, CBS studio, Washington, April 29, 2007

    (CBS/AP) President George W. Bush will not support a war spending bill that punishes the Iraqi government for failing to meet benchmarks for progress, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday on Face The Nation.

    Rice's comments cast fresh doubt on a potential compromise between the Democratic-led Congress and the White House in getting money to U.S. troops.

    Also, with a regional conference on Iraq set to begin Thursday in Egypt, Rice raised the possibility of a rare direct encounter between high-level U.S. and Iranian officials. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is expected to lead his country's delegation.

    "I would not rule it out," Rice told Bob Schieffer. "We will be there not to talk about U.S.-Iranian issues, but to talk about Iraq, and how Iraq's neighbors can help to stabilize Iraq, and I won't rule it out."

    In Washington this week, Bush plans to veto a $124.2 billion war spending bill that includes a timeline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. In a second version, Democratic leaders may scrap the timetable but work with Republican lawmakers on benchmarks: ordering the Iraqi government to fulfill promises on allocating oil resources, amending its constitution and expanding democratic participation.

    Rice said the president would not agree to a plan that penalizes Baghdad if the Iraqi government fall shorts. To do so, she said, would restrain the abilities of Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

    "Why tie our own hands in using the means that we have to help get the right outcomes in Iraq?" Rice said. "That's the problem with having so-called consequences for missing the benchmarks."

    Rice said that the Iraqi government is not moving forward fast enough, but "General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have a plan and a way forward."

    Benchmarks have emerged as a possible rallying point as U.S. leaders seek to show they are holding the Iraq government accountable. But establishing goals without consequences may seem pointless to many Democratic lawmakers, who want an aggressive change in policy.

    "The benchmarks ・the Iraqis agreed to it, the president agreed it," said Democratic Rep. John Murtha, who also appeared on Face The Nation. "We're saying to them, well, let's put some teeth into the benchmarks."

    Rice said it makes sense to give Iraq's leaders time to meet the goals they have set. She said Bush has made clear to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that people in the United States have limited patience.

    In their push to link U.S. money or troop support to Iraqi performance, however, Democrats must negotiate with Republicans. On their own, Democratic lawmakers do not have the votes to override Bush's veto.

    Bush is expected the veto the existing war bill by Tuesday, then meet Wednesday with congressional leaders on the next steps.

    "If he vetoes this bill, he's cut off the money, but obviously, we're going to pass another bill," Murtha said. "I'd like to see two months ... Fund it for two months instead of a year. And then look at it again."

    Meanwhile, Rice said will not appear in person before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to answer questions about the Bush administration's prewar intelligence. Rice said she already has addressed claims that Iraq had sought uranium from the African nation of Niger.

    The committee voted 21-10 last week to issue a subpoena to compel her testimony.

    Asked about the possibility of being held in contempt by the committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, Rice said, "That's the chairman's prerogative. I respect the oversight ・the oversight responsibilities of Congress ・but I frankly think this one has been looked at and looked at and looked at."

    Clinton Pounces On "Mission Accomplished"

    Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, California Democratic Convention

    (CBS) Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton denounced President George W. Bush on Saturday for his "Mission Accomplished" speech and said his conduct of the Iraq war was "one of the darkest blots on leadership we've ever had."

    Addressing delegates at the California State Democratic Party convention, Clinton said that if elected president in 2008, she would end the war. The New York senator also promised to "treat all Americans with dignity and equality no matter who you are and who you love." The pledge was clear bow to California's politically active and influential gay community.

    Taking on Bush's policies, Clinton contended the president has ignored scientific evidence on global warming and stem cell research while also dismissing the concerns of the middle class. She said his administration had "lied" about the effects of toxic dust at the World Trade Center site in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

    Her voice raspy from days of campaigning, Clinton brought delegates to their feet when she said she wished she could turn the clock back to a different time.

    "Somebody said to me that he wished we could just rewind the 21st century and just eliminate the Bush-Cheney administration, with all their mistakes and misjudgments," she said to cheers. "People are ready for leaders who understand it is our votes who put them in power, our tax dollars that pay the bills."

    She lambasted the "Mission Accomplished" speech nearly four years ago, in which Bush declared an end to major military actions in Iraq. He made the comment while on the deck of an aircraft carrier off the California coast.

    That speech, Clinton said, was "one of the most shameful episodes in American history. ... The only mission he accomplished was the re-election of Republicans."

    California is poised to play a greater role in the presidential nominating process, having recently moved its primary to Feb. 5 to join several other large states in holding contests that day.

    Most of the top Democratic presidential contenders planned to address the convention during the weekend.

    Delegates were to hear Clinton's main rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, later Saturday afternoon, in addition to Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

    Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson were on Sunday's schedule.

    Clinton's speech was well-received among the generally left-leaning delegates who typically attend this state's Democratic gatherings.

    Four years ago, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean ・then a little-known figure in the 2004 Democratic field ・thrilled convention delegates with his fiery denunciation of the war. His rivals at the time, including Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who eventually won the nomination, were loudly booed for defending their 2002 vote to authorize the war.

    Clinton cast the same vote in 2002, but met with only sporadic heckling during her speech.

    Some candidates who attended South Carolina's party convention Saturday said they thought the United States has lost its global standing during Bush's presidency. America, they said, needs a Democratic commander in chief to restore its place in the world.

    "We are today internationally and domestically a nation that is no longer a leader," Richardson said.

    Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee, said the world needs to see that "America can be a force for good."

    "What their perception is that America is a bully and we only care about our short-term interests," Edwards said. "The starting place is to end the bleeding sore that is the war in Iraq."

    Richardson, Edwards and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden said they would make ending the war a priority.

    "The American people are looking for us as Democrats," said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "They're looking for someone literally, not figuratively, to restore America's place in the world."

    Bush Vows Continued Vetoes On Funding Bill

    (CBS/AP) President Bush warned Congress Friday that he will continue vetoing war spending bills as long as they contain a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

    Speaking a day after the Democratic-controlled Congress approved legislation that requires that a troop drawdown begin by Oct. 1, Mr. Bush said ・as expected ・he will veto it because of that demand.

    But at a Camp David news conference with Japan's prime minister, Mr. Bush said he's optimistic a deal can be worked out to get funding for the U.S. troops in Iraq, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

    "I'm optimistic we can get a bill, a good bill and a bill that satisfies all our objectives," he said.

    He invited congressional leaders to come to the White House to discuss a new piece of legislation that does not include a timetable. But he made clear that if Democrats insist on including timetables again, he will not hesitate to bring out his veto pen.

    "If they want to try again that which I've said is unacceptable, of course I won't accept it," the president said during the news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "I hope it won't come to that."

    Passage of the Iraq spending legislation in both houses was not by big enough margins to override a presidential veto. So lawmakers and the White House immediately began talking about negotiations for a follow-up bill.

    Democratic leaders said they hoped to have a new bill ready by June 1. Several Democratic officials have said the next measure likely will jettison the withdrawal timetable, but may include consequences if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks, such as expanding democratic participation and allocating oil resources.

    Mr. Bush has set benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but has opposed attaching any timeframe to them or any actions if they are not met.

    Senate leaders said Friday that the bill should go to Mr. Bush early next week. The White House has not said whether Mr. Bush plans a quiet veto or a public ceremony.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urged Mr. Bush on Friday to "carefully read this bill."

    "He will see it fully provides for our troops and gives them a strategy worthy of their sacrifices," Reid said. "Failing to sign this bill would deny our troops the resources and strategy they need."

    The bill would provide $124.2 billion, more than $90 billion of which would go for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Democrats added billions more for domestic programs, and while most of the debate focused on the troop withdrawal issue, some of the extra spending also has drawn Mr. Bush's ire.

    The legislation requires a troop withdrawal to begin July 1 if Mr. Bush cannot certify that the Iraqi government is making progress in disarming militias, reducing sectarian violence and forging political agreements; otherwise, it calls for the withdrawal to start by Oct. 1.

    While the beginning of a withdrawal is mandated, the balance of the pullback is merely advisory, to take place by April 1, 2008.

    Troops could remain after that date to conduct counterterrorism missions, protect U.S. facilities and personnel and train Iraqi security forces.

    Iraq Dominates Dems' Presidential Debate

    (CBS/AP) Democratic presidential hopefuls flashed their anti-war credentials and heaped criticism on President George W. Bush's Iraq policy in an early first debate of the 2008 campaign. “The first day I would get us out of Iraq by diplomacy,” said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, one of eight rivals on the debate stage Thursday night. “If this president does not get us out of Iraq, when I am president, I will,” pledged Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. But Clinton found herself on the receiving end of criticism moments later when former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said she or anyone else who voted to authorize the war should “search their conscience.”

    Edwards, in the Senate at the time, also cast his vote for the invasion, but he has since apologized for it. Of the eight foes participating in the debate at South Carolina State University, four voted earlier in the day to support legislation that cleared Congress and requires the beginning of a troop withdrawal by Oct. 1. The legislation sets a goal of a complete withdrawal by April 1, 2008. “We are one signature away from ending this war,” said Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. He said if Mr. Bush won't change his mind about vetoing the bill, Democrats need to work on rounding up enough Republican votes to override him.

    In addition to Obama and Clinton, Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut also cast votes earlier in the day in favor of the legislation. Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio also participated in the debate. Mr. Bush is barred by the Constitution from running for re-election next fall, and the result is an extraordinarily early start to the campaign to succeed him. The state in which the debate was held — South Carolina — has only been carried by one Democrat since 1960. African-Americans make up 29.9 percent of the state's population, reports CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield. In '04, nearly half the Democratic vote was black, Greenfield reports, which is why Democrats put this primary close to the starting line.

    The debate — nine months before the kickoff Iowa caucuses — was 90 minutes long without opening or closing statements from the candidates. Instead, each of the eight fielded questions in turn. That made for a rapid-fire debate but prevented follow-up questions when any of the eight sidestepped — as when Clinton and Biden avoided answering when asked whether they agreed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's assessment that the Iraq war is lost. While Iraq dominated the debate's early moments, Edwards was asked about having paid for a $400 (euro294) haircut from campaign donations rather than from his own wallet. “That was a mistake, which we remedied,” he said. A wealthy former trial lawyer, he recalled once having gone to dinner at a restaurant as a young child and having to leave because his father could not afford the prices. “I've not forgotten where I came from,” he said.

    Five of the eight — Gravel, Biden, Dodd, Kucinich and Richardson — raised their hands when moderator Brian Williams of NBC News asked whether they had ever had a gun in their home. Asked about a recent Supreme Court ruling that upheld a ban on so-called partial birth abortions, several of the contenders replied they would not impose a litmus test on their own nominees to the high court.

    At the same time, they stressed their support for abortion rights, and said their appointees to the bench would reflect that. “Any of my appointments to the high court would necessarily reflect my thinking,” said Kucinich, who did not mention that he opposed abortion rights until switching positions before he ran for the White House in 2004. There were moments of levity, as when Williams referred to Biden's reputation for “verbosity” and asked whether he had the discipline to be a player on the world stage. “Yes,” the Delaware lawmaker replied with uncharacteristic brevity. Perhaps because the campaign is still in its early stages, there was little cross-stage criticism. Gravel was an exception, when he said, “Some of these people frighten me, they frighten me. When you have main line candidates who say there's nothing off the table when it comes to Iran,” he said, adding that was “code for using” nuclear weapons. Asked why he was not supporting a ban called by a leading civil rights group on travel to South Carolina while the Confederate flag flies on the grounds of the State Capitol in Columbia, Biden noted that Rep. James Clyburn, a black member of Congress from another part of the state, had invited them to the debate.

    The flag “should be put in a museum,” added Obama, running the most competitive race in history for a black man. The Confederate flag was the banner of the secessionist pro-slavery southern states in the 1861-65 American Civil War. The debate was about 40 minutes old when Clinton made the first mention of her husband, the former president. Responding to a question about the recent shooting spree at Virginia Tech, she began by saying, “I remember very well when I accompanied Bill to Columbine” — the Colorado high school that was the scene of another shooting spree a decade ago. Not surprisingly, Mr. Bush's Iraq war policy found no supporters on the debate stage.

    “I am proud that I opposed this war from the start,” said Obama — a jab at those on the stage who voted to authorize the invasion. “The president has a fundamentally flawed policy,” said Biden. “The president should start off by not vetoing the legislation he says he will veto.” Dodd said Mr. Bush was pursuing a “failed policy.” Kucinich jabbed at the senators on stage, saying it made no sense to oppose the war and then turn around and vote for more money as they did. The Ohio lawmaker voted against the legislation that cleared Congress earlier in the day.

    House Nears Vote On Iraq Pullout

    (CBS/AP) Democrats brushed off a White House veto threat and pleas for patience from the top U.S. commander in Iraq Wednesday and pushed toward a vote demanding that troops begin coming home this fall.

    Their insistence guaranteed a historic showdown with President Bush, the first on the war since Democrats took control of Congress in January.

    "We need to claim victory for our soldiers," said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas. "They have done their job. It's time to bring them home now."

    Late Wednesday, the House was expected to pass a $124.2 billion war-funding bill that would require troop withdrawals to begin Oct. 1 with the goal of completing the pullout six months later. Mr. Bush has promised to veto the bill and has enough Republican votes to sustain his veto.

    Emotions ran high.

    Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., said ending the war would be handing a victory to terrorists. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., called on Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to resign for saying the war was lost.

    Mr. Bush dispatched his top leader in Iraq. Gen. David Petraeus, and other top officials to Capitol Hill to make his case: Additional forces recently sent to Iraq are yielding mixed results, and the strategy needs more time to work.

    Lawmakers ducked into the briefing as protesters shouted, "Troops home now!"

    But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ・the Democrat most credited with leading Congress into this head-to-head confrontation with President Bush ・laid low on Wednesday, reports CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. She skipped the meeting with Petraeus, opting for a phone briefing instead.

    Under the bill, troops could remain in Iraq after the 2008 date but only for limited non-combat missions, including counterterrorism operations and training Iraqi forces.

    The bill, already negotiated with Senate leaders, is expected to reach the president's desk by early next week following a final Senate vote Thursday.

    Democrats view the November elections that allowed them to take control of the House and the Senate as a referendum on Mr. Bush's conduct of the war.

    "For the first time, the president will have to be accountable for this war in Iraq," Pelosi said Tuesday. "And he does not want to face that reality."

    Mr. Bush, however, says he stands firm on his latest strategy for winning the war and dismisses as counterproductive the Democratic call for withdrawal.

    "That means our commanders in the middle of a combat zone would have to take fighting directions from legislators 6,000 miles away on Capitol Hill," Mr. Bush said this week. "The result would be a marked advantage for our enemies and a greater danger for our troops."

    Whether Democratic leaders had enough votes to pass the bill in the House has been in question. The original House bill included a binding timeline, demanding that combat end by September 2008. Several of the 218 members who approved that bill said they reluctantly agreed though they wanted troops home sooner.

    In recent days, the debate has turned personal, with Reid, D-Nev., and Pelosi, D-Calif., receiving the brunt of GOP criticism.

    Republicans on Wednesday focused on Reid's comment that the war was lost. Reid said last week that he believed strides in Iraq could be made only on the political and diplomatic fronts.

    "It is fairly irresponsible rhetoric at a time of war to make such a sweeping declaration," said Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla. "It certainly doesn't do anything to help the morale of our troops in harm's way."

    Republicans also criticized Pelosi for what they said was a snub of Petraeus' briefing. She opted for a 30-minute phone call with him Tuesday evening.

    "It is shameful that while our troops wake up every morning and courageously face death in defense of our freedom, the politicians in charge of Congress can't even find the time to meet face-to-face with their commander," said House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

    Pelosi responded in a statement that she received from Petraeus the same information he planned to deliver Wednesday.

    "We share a conviction that the war in Iraq will not be resolved militarily, and I look forward to future reports from him on the effects of President Bush's escalation plan," she said.

    Just hours before debate on the bill was to begin, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt told reporters he was not concerned about GOP defections despite the unpopularity of the war. But Blunt, R-Mo., said progress must be made soon or that could change.

    Blunt also said Republicans would be open to legislation that would condition foreign aid for Iraq on the government's ability to meet certain standards, such as reaching a political compromise on sharing oil revenues.

    Reid: Cheney Is Bush's "Attack Dog"

    (CBS/AP) Vice President Dick Cheney accused Democratic leader Harry Reid on Tuesday of personally pursuing a defeatist strategy in Iraq to win votes at home ・a charge Reid dismissed as President Bush's "attack dog" lashing out.

    The particularly harsh exchange came just hours after Mr. Bush said he would veto the latest war spending bill taking shape in Congress, which includes a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq.

    The vice president was so angry at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he did something he almost never does, reports CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. Cheney stopped to talk to reporters after his weekly meeting with Senate Republicans.

    "Some Democratic leaders seem to believe that blind opposition to the new strategy in Iraq is good politics," Cheney said. "Sen. Reid himself has said that the war in Iraq will bring his party more seats in the next election."

    "It is cynical to declare that the war is lost because you believe it gives you political advantage," Cheney said.

    Cheney said he felt compelled to make a statement in front of cameras to express his personal frustration with Reid, D-Nev., after the Senate majority leader told reporters last week the war was lost. Cheney's remarks also showed the high stakes involved for the White House in trying to stave off Democratic efforts to end the war.

    While Bush has enough Republican votes to sustain his veto, Democrats say they have public opinion on their side and that will eventually force Bush to change.

    "This isn't a political issue," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "I respect where the president is coming from on this. I wish he would respect where we are coming from, which is a reflection of where the American people are coming from."

    Reid shrugged off Cheney's remarks ・but with his own dig at the vice president.

    "I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with the administration's chief attack dog," he said.

    The $124.2 billion legislation would continue to fund the war in Iraq but also would require that troops begin pulling out by Oct. 1 or earlier if the Iraqi government does not make progress in tamping down sectarian violence and forging political agreements. The bill ultimately sets a nonbinding goal for combat operations to end by April 1, 2008.

    "It's a good piece of legislation," Reid said. "I would hope the president would stop being so brusque and waving it off. This is a bill that is good for the troops. It's good for the country."

    With Democrats expecting to send Mr. Bush the final bill as early as next week, the president stood firm Tuesday against any measure that would set a timetable for withdrawal.

    "They chose to make a political statement," he said. "That's their right, but it is wrong for our troops and it's wrong for our country. To accept the bill proposed by the Democratic leadership would be to accept a policy that directly contradicts the judgment of our military commanders."

    House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats will ignore the veto threat and send the bill to Bush in the hope that he will have a change of heart. But, Hoyer added, they don't expect it.

    "He will do with it what he will do," said Hoyer, D-Md. If Bush vetoes the measure, Democrats will consider their next step and try to bring Republicans on board.

    "My intuition tells me there are an awful lot of members of the president's party who have great concerns about simply staying the course," Hoyer said.

    Mr. Bush said U.S. troops should not be caught in the middle of a showdown between the White House and Congress.

    "Yesterday, Democratic leaders announced that they planned to send me a bill that will fund our troops only if we agree to handcuff our generals, add billions of dollars of unrelated spending and begin to pull out of Iraq by an arbitrary date," Bush said on the South Lawn.

    He said the bill would mandate the withdrawal of troops despite the fact that the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, has not yet received all the reinforcements he has said he needs to secure Baghdad and the troubled Anbar Province.

    Democrats have argued that the election that left them in control of Congress was a referendum for a change of strategy in Iraq. Mr. Bush used the same election results to argue his point.

    "The American people did not vote for failure," he said. "That is precisely what the Democratic leadership's bill would guarantee."

    Petraeus and other top defense officials on Wednesday will try to persuade lawmakers in a private briefing not to set a timetable.

    Under the bill, U.S. forces could remain in Iraq after the 2008 date, but would be restricted to three non-combat missions: protecting U.S. personnel and facilities, engaging in counterterrorism activities against al Qaeda and other similar organizations, and training and equipping Iraqi forces.

    David Halberstam Killed In Bay Area Crash

    author David Halberstam

    (AP) David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who chronicled the Washington press corps, the Vietnam War generation and baseball, was killed in a car crash early Monday, a coroner said. He was 73.

    Halberstam, of New York, was a passenger in a car that was broadsided by another vehicle in Menlo Park, south of San Francisco, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said.

    The accident occurred around 10:30 a.m., and the driver of the car carrying Halberstam identified him as the victim, Foucrault said. The driver, a student at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, was taken to Stanford Medical Center. Two others were injured.

    A call to Menlo Park police wasn't immediately returned.

    "Looking at the accident and examining him at the scene indicated it's most likely internal injuries," Foucrault said.

    Halberstam spoke Saturday at a UC Berkeley-sponsored event on the craft of journalism and what it means to turn reporting into a work of history.

    He was born April 10, 1934, in New York City to a surgeon father and teacher mother. His father was in the military, and Halberstam moved around the country during his childhood, spending time in Texas, Minnesota and Connecticut.

    Halberstam attended Harvard University, where he was managing editor of the Harvard Crimson newspaper.

    After graduating in 1955, he launched his career at the Daily Times Leader, a small daily in West Point, Miss. He went on to the Tennessean, in Nashville, where he covered the civil rights struggle, and then the New York Times, which sent him to Vietnam in 1962 to cover the growing crisis there.

    In 1964, at age 30, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Vietnam.

    He later said he initially supported the U.S. action there but became disillusioned. That disillusionment was apparent in Halberstam's 1972 best-seller, "The Best and the Brightest," a critical account of U.S. involvement in the region.

    He quit daily journalism in 1967 and wrote 21 books covering such topics as Vietnam, Civil Rights, the auto industry and a baseball pennant race. His 2002 best-seller, "War in a Time of Peace," was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction.

    Speaking to a journalism conference last year in Tennessee, he said government criticism of news reporters in Iraq reminded him of the way he was treated while covering the war in Vietnam.

    "The crueler the war gets, the crueler the attacks get on anybody who doesn't salute or play the game," he said. "And then one day, the people who are doing the attacking look around, and they've used up their credibility.

    Marines Granted Immunity In Haditha Deaths

    (AP) Military prosecutors have granted immunity to at least seven Marines connected to an attack that killed 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, the deadliest criminal case against U.S. troops in the Iraq war.

    Orders granting the immunity ensure any testimony the Marines volunteer cannot be used against them, making it highly unlikely charges will be brought against the men. They also suggest their eyewitness accounts will feature prominently in military court hearings for seven other Marines charged in the case.

    The orders were obtained by The Associated Press from someone involved in the case who declined to be identified because the documents are not public.

    Among those provided with immunity to testify are an officer who told troops to raid a house, and a sergeant who took photographs of the dead but later deleted them from his camera.

    One of the servicemen, Lance Cpl. Humberto Manuel Mendoza, was a member of the squad that cleared several homes and killed the Iraqis in the aftermath of a Nov. 19, 2005 roadside bomb attack that killed one Marine.

    Mendoza, who was not charged in the case, told investigators that he shot at least two men, but did so because they were in houses declared hostile.

    "I was following my training that all individuals in a hostile house are to be shot," Mendoza told investigators. He was given immunity Dec. 18, just days before the Marine Corps announced murder charges against four enlisted men and dereliction of duty charges against four officers.

    The Marine Corps said Tuesday that it dropped all charges against one of the eight men, Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz of Chicago. Dela Cruz also has been given immunity to testify.

    1st Lt. William Kallop, the first officer to arrive at the scene of the explosion, was granted immunity to talk to prosecutors April 3 as part of an order to "cooperate and truthfully answer all questions posed by investigators." He has not been charged in the case.

    Kallop was with a rapid-response force that arrived minutes after the bomb went off. According to investigative documents, he said squad leader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich and Cpl. Hector Salinas heard gunfire coming from a nearby house. Kallop told investigators that he ordered the men to "take the house."

    In the ensuing raids on several homes, 24 Iraqis died, including women and children. Wuterich is charged with 13 counts of unpremeditated murder; Salinas has not been charged.

    Kallop's attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment.

    Two other officers and several enlisted men were also given immunity to testify.

    A legal expert said by giving so many people immunity, prosecutors are taking a "conservative" approach to the case, which is the biggest to have emerged against U.S. troops since the start of the war in Iraq.

    "These are legitimate moves by the prosecutor, who is very cautious," said Gary Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor and judge who teaches law of war at Georgetown University Law Center.

    Marine spokesman Lt. Col. Sean Gibson said he could not discuss the ongoing investigation.

    Preliminary hearings for the seven Marines still facing charges are expected in the coming weeks at Camp Pendleton.

    Aside from Wuterich, the others facing unpremeditated murder charges are Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, 22, of Canonsburg, Pa. and Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum, 25, of Edmond, Okla.

    Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, 42, of Rangely, Colo., 1st Lt. Andrew A. Grayson, 25, Capt. Lucas McConnell, 31, of Napa, Calif., and Capt. Randy W. Stone, 34, face charges in connection with how the incident was investigated or reported.

    McCain's "Bomb Iran" Joke Draws Fire

    (AP) The liberal group is launching an ad against Republican John McCain and his joke about bombing Iran, arguing that the nation "can't afford another reckless president."

    The group plans to spend about $100,000 to air a commercial on network and some cable television stations in Iowa and New Hampshire, states that hold early contests in the presidential nomination process, spokesman Alex Howe said Friday.

    McCain, campaigning Wednesday in South Carolina, answered a question about military action against Iran with the chorus of the surf-rocker classic "Barbara Ann."

    "That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, 'Bomb Iran,'" he said. "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah ..."

    His audience laughed, but called the comment dangerous.

    "America has lived through six years of a reckless foreign policy," an announcer says in the ad. "We're stuck in Iraq. More than 3,000 Americans are dead. And thousands more wounded.

    "Now comes John McCain with his answer to what we should do about Iran. John McCain? We can't afford another reckless president."

    McCain defended the joke during a campaign stop in Nevada on Thursday.

    "Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends," he told reporters in Las Vegas. "My response is, Lighten up and get a life."

    Asked if his joke was insensitive, McCain said: "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"

    The McCain campaign had no immediate comment to the ad on Friday.

    The head of MoveOn said McCain displayed "more out-of-control bravado."

    "At a tense moment, when cooler heads in his own party and many retired military leaders are calling on the president to negotiate with Iran, Senator McCain's outburst isn't merely inappropriate; it's dangerous," Eli Pariser, executive director of Political Action, said Friday.

    McCain's comments, posted on, had been viewed at least 118,056 times as of Friday morning.

    Abortion Opinion Has More Graphic Language

    (CBS/AP) Ever since the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling in 1973, graphic descriptions of the procedure have been staples of abortion opponents. Abortion rights advocates have preferred more scientific terms. Neither is by accident.

    The Supreme Court adopted the more graphic approach Wednesday as a conservative majority of justices upheld a nationwide ban on a controversial abortion procedure.

    "The way in which the fetus will be killed ... is of legitimate concern" to the government, the majority said.

    In opinions after Roe v. Wade, the decision saying a woman has a constitutional right to abortion, clinical terminology has been the order of the day at the court.

    All that changed in 2000, when Justice Anthony Kennedy described abortion procedures in painstaking detail. He did so as a dissenter in Stenberg v. Carhart, the ruling striking down Nebraska's ban on what opponents call partial-birth abortions.

    "Repeated references to sources understandable only to a trained physician may obscure matters for persons not trained in medical terminology," Kennedy wrote in 2000. "Thus it seems necessary at the outset to set forth what may happen during an abortion."

    Kennedy then explained abortion procedures in explicit terms that had not been seen previously at the court. The break with tradition prompted Justice John Paul Stevens to note in a concurring opinion, "Much ink is spilled today describing the gruesome nature of late-term abortion procedures."

    Kennedy returned to form Wednesday when he wrote the decision of the court.

    "It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns ... what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast-developing brain of her unborn child," Kennedy wrote.

    In the decision, Kennedy virtually invited states to have women seeking abortions learn more about "the way in which the fetus will be killed," reports CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews. Anti-abortion rights groups ・which believe more graphic information will discourage abortion ・hailed that part of the ruling.

    "Telling the states that they have a legitimate interest in making sure these women also know what they're engaging in, what's at stake, is going to have just huge ramifications," says Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which litigates anti-abortion rights issues.

    In a forceful dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that Kennedy's word choice goes too far.

    "Throughout, the opinion refers to obstetrician-gynecologists and surgeons who perform abortions not by the titles of their medical specialties, but by the pejorative label 'abortion doctor,'" wrote Ginsburg. "A fetus is described as an 'unborn child,' and as a 'baby;' second-trimester, previability abortions are referred to as 'late-term.'"

    Bush Threatens Sudan Over Darfur Bloodshed

    (CBS/AP) President Bush said Wednesday that the United States will tighten economic sanctions and impose new punishments if Sudan fails to take concrete action to stop the bloodshed in Darfur.

    Mr. Bush said Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir must follow through on the deployment of U.N. support forces and take every necessary step to facilitate the deployment of the full U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force. He must end support to violent militias, reach out to the rebel leaders and allow humanitarian aid to reach the people of Darfur.

    "If President al-Bashir does not meet his obligations, the United States of America will act," Bush said.

    Mr. Bush warned of a series of steps if the Sudanese president does not meet his obligations.

    Mr. Bush said the United States would tighten economic sanctions on Sudan, barring certain companies from taking part in the U.S. financial system; target sanctions on individuals responsible for violence; and apply new sanctions against the government of Sudan.

    More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been displaced in the four-year conflict in Darfur, which began when rebels from ethnic African tribes rose up against the central government. The government is accused of responding by unleashing the Janjaweed militias of Arab nomads ・blamed for indiscriminate killing. The government denies the charges.

    Mr. Bush's threats came as the United Nations and African Union
    pledged to move "expeditiously" to deploy 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur while intensifying efforts to achieve a political settlement, officials said.

    The moves announced Tuesday to speed deployment followed a confidential U.N. report charged that the government of Sudan has been flying arms and heavy military equipment into Darfur in violation of Security Council resolutions, according to a report in The New York Times.

    The U.N.'s and AU's pressure "may provide some protection to the victims in Darfur," CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk said, "and the hope is that the two-track approach will stick this time."

    The United Nations and U.S. have been pushing Sudan to accept thousands more U.N. troops to build up a combined AU-U.N. force of 20,000. The Sudanese president has repeatedly rejected a U.N. force, but his recent agreement to accept 3,000 U.N. troops could be a sign that the pressure is beginning to have an effect.

    The Sudanese government, however, had resisted a U.N. force in the past and frequently reversed position after appearing to agree to a peacekeeping mission.

    "The time for promises is over," Mr. Bush said. "President al-Bashir must act."

    The current force of 7,000 AU peacekeepers has been unable to stop the fighting in a region the size of Texas. About 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes in Darfur and are living in poorly protected camps in the province and eastern Chad.

    The Sudanese president has a history of finding loopholes in agreements with the U.N. and others in the international community.

    "He must stop his pattern of obstruction once and for all," Mr. Bush said. "I have made a decision to allow the secretary-general more time to pursue his diplomacy. However, if President Bashir does not fulfill the steps I outlined above in a short period of time, my administration will take the following steps."

    Mr. Bush said the Treasury Department would tighten U.S. economic sanctions on Sudan. That would allow the United States to block any of the Sudan government's dollar transactions within the U.S. system. The Treasury Department also would add 29 companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government to a list that will make it a crime for American companies and individuals to do business with them.

    Secondly, the U.S. would target sanctions on individual people responsible for violence. That will cut them off from the U.S. financial system, preventing them, too, from doing business with U.S. companies or individuals and "calling the world's attention to their crimes," Mr. Bush said.

    Mr. Bush said he will direct the secretary of state to prepare a U.N. Security Council resolution to apply new sanctions against the government of Sudan and people found to be violating human rights or obstructing peace.

    Mr. Bush spoke at the U.S. Holocaust Museum to a crowd that included Holocaust survivors. This week marks the National Days of Remembrance of the Holocaust. At least 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles, Gypsies and others, died in the Nazi gas chambers or from starvation and disease.

    When the president arrived at the museum, several dozen demonstrators were outside pleading for more urgent action to resolve the crisis in Darfur, where thousands of people are dying each month from a lack of food, water, health care and shelter in the desert.

    Before Mr. Bush spoke, he viewed an exhibit on anti-semitism and one titled "Genocide Emergency Darfur: Who will survive today?" He looked at photographs of refugees and victims from the region and saw satellite imagery of the region on a computer.

    Bush Joins Mourners At Virginia Tech

    (CBS/AP) Representing America's anguish, President Bush said Tuesday that he prays for comfort for those victimized by the "dark turn" of the day at Virginia Tech that turned into the nation's deadliest shooting spree.

    "Laura and I have come to Blacksburg today with hearts full of sorrow," he said in six-minute remarks at a convocation on the campus where 33 people, including the suspected gunman, died in two separate shootings the day before. "This is a day of mourning for the Virginia Tech community and it is a day of sadness for our entire nation."

    Before flying to the tragedy-stricken university in southwestern Virginia, Mr. Bush also ordered flags flown at half staff and issued a written proclamation in honor of those killed and wounded.

    Speaking to a somber basketball arena, packed with students and others, many wearing orange short-sleeved Virgina Tech T-shirts, the president encouraged grieving students to reach out for help.

    "To all of you who are OK, I'm happy for that," Mr. Bush said. "To those of you who are in pain or who have lost someone close to you, I'm sure you can call on any one of us and have help anytime you need it."

    Quoting scripture, he told those angered by the killings not to be overcome by evil.

    "People who have never met you are praying for you," Mr. Bush said. "They're praying for your friends who have fallen and who are injured. There's a power in these prayers, a real power. In times like this, we can find comfort in the grace and guidance of a loving God."

    Before the service, the president received a briefing on the shootings and their investigation from Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. Afterward, he was granting interviews to news anchors from NBC, CBS and ABC.

    Mr. Bush spoke on a day of raw emotion. He spoke to students who he said had just lived through the worst day of their lives.

    "On this terrible day of mourning, it's hard to imagine a time will come when life at Virginia Tech will return to normal, but such a day will come," Mr. Bush said. "And when it does, you will always remember the friends and teachers who were lost yesterday, and the time you shared with them, and the lives that they hoped to lead."

    Meanwhile, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has sent 12 agents to Virginia Tech and the FBI has contributed some 15 agents as well for the investigation. The federal help, including input from the U.S. Attorney's office in the Western District of Virginia, is being coordinated at a command center set up on the campus.

    In addition to helping with the crime scene, the Department of Justice is making counselors available to victims and their families through a special office and the Education Department is offering assistance as well.

    White House spokeswoman Dana Perino deflected any questions about the president's view of needed changes to gun control policy, saying the time for that discussion is not now.

    "We understand that there's going to be and there has been an ongoing national discussion, conversation and debate about gun control policy. Of course we are going to be participants in that conversation," she said. "Today, however, is a day that is time to focus on the families, the school, the community."

    Perino added: "Everyone's been shaken to the core by this event and so I think what we need to do is focus on support of the victims and their families and then also allow the facts of the case to unfold before we talk any more about policies."

    In times of tragedy, Americans turn to the president to be the nation's consoler and comforter.

    Mr. Bush rallied the nation after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. One of the most enduring images of his presidency is Mr. Bush standing atop a pile of rubble in New York with a bullhorn in his hand. After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, he made repeated trips to the region but wound up criticized for the government's sluggish response to the storm.

    President Clinton went to Oklahoma City in 1995 after the bombing of the federal building there, and his on-the-scene empathy was later viewed as the key factor in reviving his presidency and helping him win re-election.

    Mr. Bush first spoke about the shootings on Monday afternoon, expressing shock and sadness about the killings from the White House. He lamented that schools should be places of "safety, sanctuary and learning" ・similar to remarks he has made in the past after school shootings.

    Many of the 2008 presidential candidates issued statements on the shootings Monday.

    Republican Rudy Giuliani called it a "day of national tragedy, when we lost some of our finest to a senseless act."

    "As a parent, I am filled with sorrow for the mothers and fathers and loved ones struggling with the sudden, unbearable news of a lost son or daughter, friend or family member," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

    "We are simply heartbroken by the deaths and injuries suffered at Virginia Tech," said Democratic hopeful John Edwards. "We know what an unspeakable, life-changing moment this is for these families and how, in this moment, it is hard to feel anything but overwhelming grief, much less the love and support around you. But the love and support is there."

    Republican candidate Mitt Romney said: "The entire nation grieves for the victims of this terrible tragedy that took place today on the campus of Virginia Tech. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the entire Virginia Tech community. Our full support is behind the law enforcement officials who are involved with stabilizing the situation and conducting an investigation."

    Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said the nation is mourning the dead and praying for their families and for the wounded.

    "We are a grieving and shocked nation," said Obama. "Violence has once again taken too many young people from this world."

    In Laredo, Texas, Sen. John McCain was asked if the rampage has changed his views on gun control.

    "Obviously we have to keep guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens," said the Arizona Republican. "I do believe in the constitutional right that everyone has, in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, to carry a weapon... And so, obviously, we have to look at what happened here, but it doesn't change my views on the Second Amendment, except to make sure that these kinds of weapons don't fall into the hands of bad people."

    At Least 33 Killed In Va. Tech Massacre

    (CBS/AP) A gunman opened fire in a Virginia Tech dorm and then, two hours later, in a classroom across campus Monday, killing at least 32 people in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history, government officials told The Associated Press. The gunman was killed, bringing the death toll to 33.

    At least 26 others were injured in the shootings, police said.

    The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives believe the gunman, described as a young Asian male, used two handguns in the shootings before taking his own life, sources tell CBS News. One official added that the gunman was "heavily armed and wearing a vest."

    Investigators offered no motive for the attack but said they are trying to confirm if the gunman was looking for his girlfriend, CBS News reports. The gunman's name was not immediately released, and it was not known if he was a student.

    Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions,・said Virginia Tech president Charles Steger. The university is shocked and indeed horrified.・

    Students complained that there were no public-address announcements or other warnings on campus after the first burst of gunfire. They said the first word they received from the university was an e-mail more than two hours into the rampage ・around the time the gunman struck again.

    Steger said authorities at first believed that the shooting at the dorm was a domestic dispute and that the gunman had fled the campus.

    "We had no reason to suspect any other incident was going to occur," he said, adding, "We can only make decisions based on the information you had at the time," he said. "You don't have hours to reflect on it."

    The shootings spread panic and confusion on campus. Witnesses reporting students jumping out the windows of a classroom building to escape the gunfire. SWAT team members with helmets, flak jackets and assault rifles swarmed over the campus. Students and faculty members carried out some of the wounded themselves, without waiting for ambulances to arrive.

    The massacre took place at opposite sides of the 2,600-acre campus, beginning at about 7:15 a.m. at West Ambler Johnston, a coed dormitory that houses 895 people, and continuing at least two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering and general classroom building about a half-mile away, authorities said.

    Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said one male and one female student were killed in the dormitory shooting. The rest were killed at Norris Hall.

    Officials are confident there was one gunman and that the shootings were not part of a larger plot, CBS News reports. FBI spokesman Richard Kolko in Washington said there was no immediate evidence to suggest it was a terrorist attack, "but all avenues will be explored."

    Some students bitterly questioned why the gunman was able to strike a second time, two hours after the bloodshed began.

    What happened today, this was ridiculous,・student Jason Piatt told CNN. He said the first warning from the university of a shooting on campus came in an e-mail about two hours after the first deadly burst of gunfire. While they're sending out that e-mail, 22 more people got killed,・Piatt said.

    Students and Laura Wedin, a student programs manager at Virginia Tech, said the first notification they got of the shootings came in an e-mail at 9:26 a.m., more than two hours after the first shooting.

    The e-mail had few details. It said: The shooting incident occurred at West Amber Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating.・The message warned students to be cautious and contact police about anything suspicious.

    Student Maurice Hiller said he went to a 9 a.m. class two buildings away from the engineering building, and no warnings were coming over the outdoor public address system on campus at the time.

    Everett Good, junior, said of the lack of warning: 的'm trying to figure that out. Someone's head is definitely going to roll over that.・

    We were kept in the dark a lot about exactly what was going on,・said Andrew Capers Thompson, a 22-year-old graduate student from Walhalla, S.C.

    At least 26 people were being treated at three area hospitals for gunshot wounds and other injuries, authorities said. Their exact conditions were not disclosed, but at least one was sent to a trauma center and six were in surgery, authorities said.

    Up until Monday, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history was in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, when George Hennard plowed his pickup truck into a Luby's Cafeteria and shot 23 people to death, then himself.

    The massacre Monday took place almost eight years to the day after the Columbine High bloodbath near Littleton, Colo. On April 20, 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

    Previously, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history was a rampage that took place in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin, where Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and opened fire with a rifle from the 28th-floor observation deck. He killed 16 people before he was shot to death by police.

    Founded in 1872, Virginia Tech is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, about 160 miles west of Richmond. With more than 25,000 full-time students, it has the state's largest full-time student population. The school is best known for its engineering school and its powerhouse Hokies football team.

    The rampage took place on a brisk spring day, with snow flurries swirling around the campus. The campus is centered around the Drill Field, a grassy field where military cadets ・who now represent a fraction of the student body ・once practiced. The dorm and the classroom building are on opposites sides of the Drill Field.

    A gasp could be heard at a campus news conference when Virginia Tech Police Chief W.R. Flinchum said at least 20 people had been killed. Previously, only one person was thought to have been killed.

    Investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began marking and recovering the large number of shell casings and will trace the weapon used, authorities said.

    After the shootings, all entrances to the campus were closed, and classes were canceled through Tuesday. The university set up a meeting place for families to reunite with their children. It also made counselors available and planned an assembly for Tuesday at the basketball arena.

    After the shooting began, students were told to stay inside away from the windows.

    Aimee Kanode, a freshman from Martinsville, said the shooting happened on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston dormitory, one floor above her room. Kanode's resident assistant knocked on her door about 8 a.m. to notify students to stay put.

    Police said there had been bomb threats on campus over the past two weeks by authorities but said they have not determined a link to the shootings.

    It was second time in less than a year that the campus was closed because of a shooting.

    Last August, the opening day of classes was canceled and the campus closed when an escaped jail inmate allegedly killed a hospital guard off campus and fled to the Tech area. A sheriff's deputy involved in the manhunt was killed on a trail just off campus. The accused gunman, William Morva, faces capital murder charges.

    President Bush said the mass shooting affects every student across the nation.

    Schools should be places of safety, sanctuary and learning,・Bush said. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom in every American community.・

    Bush spoke with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger.

    的 told them that Laura and I and many across our nation are praying for the victims and all the members of university community that have been devastated by this terrible tragedy,・Bush said in the Diplomatic Room of the White House.

    In the House, which returned Monday from a two-week recess, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., interrupted the proceedings to lead a moment of silence in remembrance.

    Gonzales: I've Done Nothing Wrong

    (CBS/AP) Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday he has done nothing improper in the firings of eight federal prosecutors in testimony prepared for his appearance before a Senate panel widely viewed as a last chance to save his job.

    "I have nothing to hide," Gonzales said in a statement released Sunday.

    Democrats have accused Gonzales of trying to politicize the Justice Department by making loyalty to the Bush adminstration a key factor in the firings.

    In the statement released today by the Justice Department in advance of his appearance Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales said that decisions on whether to fire a prosecutor are not based on "whether the target is a Republican or a Democrat."

    The Justice Department and the Bush Administration have mounted an all-out effort at damage control: a public relations blitz, reports CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante.

    In an op-ed article in today's Washington Post, Gonzales apologizes not for firing the attorneys but for what he calls an "undignified Washington spectacle."

    Two Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee said Gonzales has an uphill battle in convincing the public he can lead the Justice Department.

    Two days before Gonzales is to make a showdown appearance before Congress, Sen. Arlen Specter said none of Gonzales' public statements so far has convinced him that the department's ouster of eight U.S. attorneys was justified.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, another Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, said Gonzales has "an uphill struggle to re-establish his credibility with the committee given prior statements." Still, Graham said he believed Gonzales could save his job.

    "He needs to explain what he did and why he did it," Graham said. "There are three our four different versions of his role in this, and he needs to bring clarity to what he did and why he did it."

    Gonzales, a former White House counsel who became attorney general in 2005, will testify Tuesday before the committee, in what will likely be a make-or-break appearance for Gonzales.

    Specter said Gonzales must explain the firing the U.S. attorneys case by case ・and convince senators they were not done to interfere with or promote ongoing criminal investigations aimed at benefiting Republicans.

    If he is unable to do so, Gonzales should consider reinstating the fired prosecutors, Specter said.

    While a president has a right to replace U.S. attorneys for no reason at all, "you can't replace them for a bad reason," he said.

    "The No. 1 question is, is he capable of administering the Department of Justice, did he have enough hands on to know what's happening? Can he explain why these individuals were asked to resign and justify the reasons for doing so?" Specter said.

    White House: Millions of e-mails may be missing

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Millions of White House e-mails may be missing, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino acknowledged Friday. "I wouldn't rule out that there were a potential 5 million e-mails lost," Perino told reporters. The administration was already facing sharp questions about whether top presidential advisers including Karl Rove improperly used Republican National Committee e-mail that the White House said later disappeared. The latest comments were a response to a new report from a liberal watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), alleging that over a two-year period official White House e-mail traffic for hundreds of days has vanished -- in possible violation of the federal Presidential Records Act. (Watch CREW's comments on the missing messages)

    "This story is really now a two-part issue," CREW's Melanie Sloan told CNN. "First there's the use of the RNC e-mail server that's inappropriate by White House officials and secondly we've also learned that there were between March of 2003 and October of 2005 apparently over 5 million e-mail that were not preserved and these are e-mail on the regular White House server." Perino stressed there's no indication the e-mails were intentionally lost, but she was careful not to dispute the outside group's allegations. "I'm not taking issue with their conclusions at this point," Perino said. "We're checking into them. There are 1,700 people in the Executive Office of the President."

    White House: 'We screwed up'

    Perino's disclosure about the White House e-mail comes a day after she admitted that the White House "screwed up" by not requiring e-mails from Republican Party and campaign accounts to be saved and was also trying to recover those e-mails. Perino said 22 aides in the political arm of the president's office use party or campaign e-mail accounts, which were issued to separate official business from political work. Some of those accounts were used to discuss the December firings of eight federal prosecutors, a shake-up that has triggered a spreading controversy on Capitol Hill.

    Congressional investigators have questioned whether White House aides used e-mail accounts from the Republican Party and President Bush's re-election campaign for official government business to avoid scrutiny of those dealings. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused the White House of trying to hide messages on the Republican Party system related to the firing of the U.S. attorneys, which has stirred up a hornet's nest on Capitol Hill. "You can't erase e-mails, not today," said Leahy, D-Vermont. "They've gone through too many servers. They can't say they've been lost. That's like saying, 'The dog ate my homework.' " (Watch Leahy compare e-mails to Nixon tapes)

    Leahy said the e-mails would have remained on party or campaign computer servers, and he compared the situation to the famous 18½-minute gap in one of the Watergate tapes. "They're there," he said. "They know they're there, and we'll subpoena them, if necessary, and we'll have them." Perino told reporters that the e-mails from those accounts should have been saved, but said policy has not kept pace with technology. She said computer experts were trying to retrieve any records that have been deleted. "We screwed up, and we're trying to fix it," she told reporters. E-mails sought by special prosecutor also missing Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, disclosed last year that some White House e-mails in 2003 were not saved as standard procedure dictated.

    In a January 23, 2006, letter to the defense team of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Fitzgerald wrote: "We advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system." Robert Luskin, personal attorney for Rove, told CNN Friday that he "has no reason to doubt" Fitzgerald's assertion that some White House e-mail was missing. "You're quite right," Luskin said in a telephone interview. "There was a gap there." Democrats charge this raises questions about whether the public has gotten the full story on everything from the CIA leak case to the fired U.S. attorneys controversy. "The biggest problem here is really that here is a White House that is deliberately violating an existing statute that requires them to preserve all records," said Sloan. "And we have significant evidence now both from the RNC e-mail and the White House e-mail that are missing that the White House was using every means possible to avoid complying with the law."

    Luskin said it was "foolish speculation" for CREW -- which serves as counsel to former ambassador Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, in a private suit against Rove and other Bush officials -- to suggest that the gap in White House e-mail helped Rove avoid indictment in the CIA leak case. Luskin said Fitzgerald told him that Rove was cleared in the case because he "did nothing wrong." Luskin added that until this month, Rove believed his RNC e-mail was being archived and did nothing wrong. "Rove has always understood from very early on in the Bush administration that RNC and campaign e-mail were being archived," said Luskin. "He was absolutely unaware until very, very recently that any e-mails were lost. And he never asked that e-mails be deleted or asked for the authority to delete e-mails."

    White House On E-Mails: "We Screwed Up"

    (CBS/AP) The White House admits that some e-mails about the U.S. Attorney firings may have been destroyed and that some staffers may have improperly done official business on Republican Party e-mail accounts.

    The claim that e-mails sent on a Republican Party account might have been lost was challenged Thursday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who quipped that even his teenage neighbor could find them.

    "They say they have not been preserved. I don't believe that!" Leahy shouted from the Senate floor as the dispute over the firing of federal prosecutors continued at a high pitch. "That's like saying the dog ate my homework. It doesn't work that way."

    "You can't erase e-mails, not today. They've gone through too many servers," said Leahy, D-Vt. "Those e-mails are there; they just don't want to produce them. We'll subpoena them if necessary."

    Separately, Leahy's committee approved ・but did not issue ・new subpoenas to compel the administration to produce documents and testimony about the firings.

    Another 1,000 pages of documents are about to be released by the Justice Department investigators, Axelrod reports.

    White House officials insisted the administration is making a genuine effort to recover any missing e-mails that had been sent on an account sponsored by the Republican National Committee.

    "I understand his point, but he's wrong," said spokeswoman Dana Perino.

    But while Perino pushed back on questions about the e-mails, she also made an uncommonly candid admission.

    "We're being very honest and forthcoming," she added. "I hope that he would understand the spirit in which we have come forward and tried to explain how we screwed up our policy and how we're working to fix it."

    Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, fighting to save his job, is to testify to Congress next Tuesday.

    In the meantime, Democrats have kept up pressure on the administration with closed-door interviews of department officials and votes to authorize subpoenas for documents and aides involved in the firings.

    The investigation has revealed that White House e-mails about official business ・on electronic accounts intended for political matters ・may be gone, in violation of a law that requires their preservation. Twenty-two White House officials, including political adviser Karl Rove, have the accounts sponsored by the Republican National Committee, administration officials say.

    White House spokesman Scott Stanzel on Thursday could not rule out that some of the missing e-mails involved the attorney firings.

    The president has asked the legal counsel's office to "take all reasonable steps" to see if the messages can be retrieved, reports CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer. The counsel's office has contacted forensics experts to determine if the issue can be resolved.

    For the second day in a row, White House officials would not say whether the missing e-mails could be recovered.

    Leahy scoffed.

    "I've got a teenage kid in my neighborhood that can go get 'em for them," he told reporters.

    Retorted Perino: "I don't know if Sen. Leahy is also an IT expert."

    White House To Lawmakers: Don't Go To Iran

    The White House said Wednesday it would be "unproductive and unhelpful" for Democratic leaders of Congress to visit Iran.

    The criticism came a day after the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Tom Lantos, told reporters in San Francisco he has tried for 10 years to obtain a visa to visit with leaders in Tehran.

    "Members of Congress are not simply potted plants, though the White House would like them to be," Lantos, D-Calif., said Wednesday.

    He said in a statement lawmakers need to get firsthand information on critical issues "because as we have unfortunately seen, we cannot rely on the administration to give us accurate and untainted information."

    "I am ready to go," Lantos had said on Tuesday. "And knowing the speaker, I think she might be."

    A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she had had no intention of going to Iran.

    Pelosi, standing next to Lantos at a press conference, said that while she finds Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks "to be so repulsive that they're outside the circle of civilized human behavior," the willingness of Lantos ・a Hungarian-born survivor of the Holocaust ・to meet with Ahmadinejad "speaks volumes about the importance of dialogue."

    Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be "wiped off the map" and has called the Holocaust a "myth."

    Pelosi recently ran afoul of the White House by visiting Syria. President Bush said her trip sent mixed messages to the Syrian government, which the administration considers a state supporter of terrorism.

    The Bush administration has led an international effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The United States also has accused Iran of meddling in the war in Iraq.

    Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said Wednesday that Tehran has been training Iraqi fighters in the assembly of deadly roadside bombs.

    Given those comments about "Iran's continued meddling in Iraq, it's troubling that there are Democrats in Congress who are making travel arrangements to go to Tehran," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

    She said such trips would be "unproductive and unhelpful ・and that applies to all members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats. But I don't know of any Republicans who are signing up to go visit President Ahmadinejad."

    Lynch Rescue Added To Tillman Probe

    (AP) A U.S. House committee announced Tuesday it would hold hearings on misleading military statements that followed the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch in Iraq.

    The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said an April 24 hearing would be part of its investigation into whether there was a strategy to mislead the public.

    The plan comes two weeks after the Pentagon released the findings of its own investigations into Tillman's death, and three years after he was killed.

    The committee has been quietly investigating the case since then and decided to add Lynch to the scope of its probe. It will 兎xamine why inaccurate accounts of these two incidents were disseminated, the sources and motivations for the accounts, and whether the appropriate administration officials have been held accountable,・the panel said on its Web site.

    One or more members of the Tillman family will probably testify, the committee said. Tillman's mother and father did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.

    Lynch's spokeswoman, Aly Goodwin Gregg, said Lynch also will testify. She was very interested in doing so. She's used every opportunity to tell what really happened and to talk about the real heroes of that day,・Gregg said.

    Tillman's family has said the previous probes were inadequate and did not sufficiently address the role of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in hiding from them for five week the true circumstances of the former NFL player's death. The Army publicly maintained during that time that Tillman had been killed by enemy fire, when in fact dozens of officers knew his fellow Rangers shot him after a chaotic ambush.

    Tillman's death received worldwide attention because he had walked away from a huge contract with the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    Lynch, a 21-year-old former Army supply clerk, became one of the most visible faces of the war when she was rescued from an Iraqi hospital after being captured by Iraqi forces April 1, 2003. Eleven U.S. soldiers were killed where her convoy was attacked, and six, including Lynch, were captured.

    Her videotaped rescue by special forces branded Lynch a hero at a time the U.S. war effort seemed bogged down. It also stirred complaints of government media manipulation.

    It wasn't clear if the committee planned to call officials with knowledge of the cases to testify during the hearing, titled 溺isleading Information from the Battlefield.・

    The committee, run by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a frequent Bush administration critic, has launched several investigations since Democrats took power in Congress in January. It has not issued subpoenas in any of its probes, including one into the administration's claims that Iraq sought uranium from Niger and another into contacts between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the White House.

    The House Armed Services Committee also is considering Tillman hearings, a spokeswoman for that panel said Monday.

    In all, the Army and Defense Department have conducted five investigations into Tillman's April 22, 2004 death, with the most recent one pointing toward high-ranking military officers knowing the circumstances of his death long before Tillman's family.

    After successive failed Department of Defense and Army inquiries, only a comprehensive, unrelenting congressional investigation can do justice to Pat's memory, and restore service members' confidence in their chain of command, said Rep. Mike Honda, a Democrat who represents the Tillman family's San Jose district. I will not rest until the unvarnished truth — no matter where it leads — is brought to light.・

    One top-ranking officer, then-Maj. General Stanley McChrystal, tried to warn President Bush a week after Tillman's death to avoid repeating in speeches the official Army line: that Tillman had been killed by enemy forces. McChrystal knew an investigation would probably conclude it was friendly fire, according to internal Pentagon memos obtained by The Associated Press.

    The White House says Bush never got the message from McChrystal, who still heads military special operations. But Gen. John Abizaid, chief of Central Command at the time, did get the information before Tillman's family.

    The deception surrounding this case was an insult to the family,・Tillman's relatives said in a news release after the Pentagon's findings were disclosed March 26, but more importantly, its primary purpose was to deceive a whole nation.

    Bush Renews Push For Immigration Reform

    President Bush, right, tours the fence along the U.S-Mexico border with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, Monday, April 9, 2007, in Yuma, Ariz.

    (CBS/AP) President Bush made his second visit to the Yuma, Ariz., area of the I.S.-Mexico border in less than a year Monday and said progress was being made in deterring illegal crossings.

    But Mr. Bush again pressed Congress to change immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to work here.

    "If you have people coming here to do jobs Americans aren't doing, we need to figure out ways they can do so in a legal basis for a temporary period of time," he said in a speech at the U.S. Border Patrol station in Yuma.

    Mr. Bush said illegal immigrants should not be given amnesty and would have to pay a fine and meet other criteria before they could apply for U.S. citizenship.

    The president hoped to send a message ・particularly to conservative critics from his own party ・that the stepped-up border enforcement is working. His get-tough message was meant to prod Congress into passing a guest worker program for immigrants, a signature domestic policy goal.

    Mr. Bush was joined by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., whose support is seen as critical to any deal in the Congress.

    Another lawmaker vital to Mr. Bush's effort, Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, said Monday: "President Bush did the right thing today by speaking out."

    "Only a bipartisan bill will become law," Kennedy added. "There is a lot of common ground, especially in the need to strengthen our borders and enforce our laws, though important differences remain to be resolved."

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has scheduled time for immigration debate in May.

    Both the president and the Democratic-run Congress are eager to show some accomplishment on a core issue like immigration. But it's a sticky subject, and the fault lines don't necessarily fall along party lines. For Mr. Bush, opportunities to see through his domestic agenda are shrinking.

    Administration officials led by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez have been meeting privately for weeks with Republican senators. That expanded to a meeting in late March with key senators from both parties.

    Out of that session, a work-in-progress plan emerged ・one described as a draft White House plan by officials in both parties and advocacy groups who got copies of the detailed blueprint.

    The White House disputes that characterization. Spokesman Scott Stanzel said it was only a starting point, an emerging consensus of Republican senators and the White House.

    Regardless, the floated proposal has already met opposition. Thousands of people marched through Los Angeles on Saturday, spurred in part by what they called a betrayal by Bush.

    The plan would grant work visas to undocumented immigrants but require them to return home and pay hefty fines to become legal U.S. residents. They could apply for three-year work visas, dubbed "Z" visas, which would be renewable indefinitely but cost $3,500 each time.

    Stressing security, Mr. Bush said, "If you don't man your border and don't protect your borders, people are going to sneak in.

    "You cannot fully secure the border until you take pressure off the border," the president said. "And that requires a temporary worker program."

    He also pushed his plan to let illegal residents become citizens, provided they pay fines, take steps to become well-rounded Americans and get behind others who have been waiting.

    It is impractical to try to round up and send home 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants, he said. "It may sound good," he said. "It won't happen."

    Arriving in Yuma, Mr. Bush and Chertoff took a quick look at the "Predator," an unmanned plane that border officials use to monitor the region.

    Mr. Bush pointed to two new layers of fencing that have been erected at the border since he visited the same spot a year ago.

    "It's amazing the progress that's been made," he told border officials. "I was most impressed by your strategy, but more impressed by the fact that it's now being implemented."

    With up to 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., lawmakers haven't agreed on how to uphold the law without disrupting lives, eroding the work force and risking political upheaval.

    Mr. Bush is hopeful for a legislative compromise by August.

    The president's relations with Congress these days have been soured by the war in Iraq. He is at odds with Democratic lawmakers over a bill to extend war funding in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Author: Hiss Innocent Of Espionage

    Whittaker Chambers, Alger Hiss, House Unamerican Activities Committee, espionage, spy,

    (AP) An author who has researched the Cold War's most famous espionage case said new evidence suggests another U.S. diplomat, not Alger Hiss, was the Soviet agent who fed U.S. secrets to Moscow.

    The claim was presented Thursday at a daylong symposium, "Alger Hiss & History," at New York University. It provided new information that, if true, could point toward a posthumous vindication of Hiss, who was accused of spying for the Soviet Union and spent nearly five years in prison for perjury before his death in 1996 at age 92.

    Also at the conference, a stepson of Hiss argued that Hiss' chief accuser invented the spy allegations after his sexual advances were rejected.

    Author Kai Bird said there was new evidence to suggest that the real spy was another U.S. official named Wilder Foote. Hiss was accused of feeding secrets to the Soviet military intelligence agency GRU under the code name Ales.

    Bird said he and co-researcher Svetlana A. Chervonnaya had identified nine possible suspects among U.S. State Department officials present at the U.S.-Soviet Yalta conference in 1945. A process of elimination based on their subsequent travels to Moscow and Mexico City excluded eight of them, including Hiss, he said.

    "It left only one man standing: Wilder Foote," Bird said.

    Foote died in 1974 after a career as a diplomat. During World War II, he was involved with U.S. lend-lease operations supplying the Soviets.

    A grandson dismissed Bird's claim Friday.

    In a telephone interview, Bird said more research would be required to prove that Foote was Ales but that "he fits the itinerary in every way, and Hiss simply does not."

    Foote's grandson said in an e-mail to The Associated Press signed Wilder Foote 5 that his grandfather "was cleared of any suspicion" of wrongdoing by the FBI and the McCarthy Commission investigating spy activities. "He was and still is innocent."

    "I can only assume that Mr. Bird has ulterior motives to besmirch my grandfather's name, possibly for Mr. Bird's own celebrity," Foote said.

    Also Thursday, Timothy Hobson, Hiss' stepson, said Whittaker Chambers, whose bombshell allegations against Hiss broke the case open, had lied about his personal relationship with Hiss and had never visited the Hiss home as he claimed.

    Hobson, 80, said that during the time Chambers claimed to have visited the home, he was recuperating from a broken leg and met every person who came calling.

    Chambers was a former American communist party member who spied for the Soviets during the 1930s. He defected before World War II and accused others of being spies, but his claims did not attract FBI interest until after the war. He joined Time magazine in 1939 and as a writer and editor was a severe critic of communism. He died in 1961.

    "It is my conviction that he was in love with Alger Hiss, that he was rejected by Alger Hiss and he took that rejection in a vindictive way," Hobson said.

    Pelosi Calls Mideast Trip Helpful To Bush

    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, right, stands with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Damascus on Wednesday, April 4, 2007 in Damascus.

    (AP) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, deflecting White House criticism of her trip to Syria, said Friday she thinks the mission helped President Bush because it showed the U.S. is unified against terrorism despite being divided over Iraq.

    Pelosi, D-Calif., met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus this week against Bush's wishes.

    Our message was President Bush's message,・Pelosi said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Portugal, where she stopped briefly en route back to the United States.

    The funny thing is, I think we may have even had a more powerful impact with our message because of the attention that was called to our trip,・she said. It became clear to President Assad that even though we have our differences in the United States, there is no division between the president and the Congress and the Democrats on the message we wanted him to receive.・

    Bush this week assailed Pelosi for making the trip to Damascus, saying it sent mixed messages to the Syrian government, which his administration considers to be a state supporter of terrorism.

    There is nothing funny about the impact her trip to Syria has had,・said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe, who is with Bush in Texas. On the contrary, these visits have convinced the Assad regime that its actions in support of terrorists have no consequences.・

    Lawmakers frequently travel to the Middle East, and several Republicans were in the region at the same time as Pelosi. But as House speaker, Pelosi received the most attention.

    She was most heavily criticized for her talks with Syria and Israel. Vice President Dick Cheney called it bad behavior・on her part to try to broker a deal between the two ・a sensitive matter that would be considered the sole province of the executive branch.

    After meeting Wednesday with Syria's Assad, Pelosi said she had delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was ready for peace talks. Pelosi told reporters in the region that Assad had replied that he's ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel.・

    Olmert's office later issued a statement saying such talks could take place only if Syria stopped assisting terror groups.

    Cheney, in an interview on Rush Limbaugh's radio program, said of Pelosi's comment: It was a non-statement, nonsensical statement and didn't make any sense at all that she would suggest that those talks could go forward as long as the Syrians conducted themselves as a prime state sponsor of terror.・

    Pelosi said Friday she had paid no attention to the dustup back in the United States.

    She also said the delegation was not trying to cut deals between Syria and Israel but rather assessing the ground truth・to inform spending decisions made by Congress.

    What others were saying and doing was many miles away, in a different time zone and had no impact on our trip except to call more attention to it,・Pelosi said.

    Pelosi is locked in a political standoff with Bush over handling of the Iraq war, with Pelosi insisting that troops should come home in 2008 and Bush refusing to set any timetable. The House and Senate are working on compromise legislation expected to identify an end date to the war, which Bush has said he will veto.

    Pelosi Asks Saudis: Where Are The Women?

    (AP) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she raised the issue of Saudi Arabia's lack of female politicians with Saudi government officials on the last stop of her Mideast tour.

    Pelosi, the first woman House speaker, said she had not discussed King Abdullah's recent criticism of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, focusing instead on praise for the king's Mideast peace initiative, and efforts to quell conflicts in Somalia and Darfur.

    She met with the king Wednesday and with several members of the Shura Council, an unelected advisory assembly named by the king, on Thursday.

    Asked if she had discussed the lack of women on the council, she told reporters, "The issue has been brought up in our discussions with the Saudis on this trip."

    Pelosi arrived in Saudi Arabia from Syria, where she defied the White House's Middle East policy by meeting with President Bashar Assad and saying "the road to Damascus is a road to peace." The Bush administration has rejected direct talks with Damascus and criticized Pelosi for her visit.

    In an interview with ABC News, Vice President Dick Cheney said Assad has "been isolated and cut off because of his bad behavior, and the unfortunate thing about the speaker's visit is it sort of breaks down that barrier."

    Pelosi was met at the Riyadh airport by officials including Abdul-Rahman al-Zamel, the head of the Saudi-American friendship committee at the Shura Council. He described the speaker's visit as a "breakthrough" and praised the inclusion of the first Muslim member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., in her delegation.

    Pelosi wore a lavender pantsuit instead of the long black robe, called an abaya, that women, Saudi and non-Saudi, have to wear in the kingdom.

    Visiting women dignitaries are not expected to wear the robe, and other female U.S. government officials who have visited Saudi Arabia in the past few years, such as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, did not wear abayas when they met with Saudi officials.

    Ihsan Abu-Holeiqa, a member of the council, said the meeting with Pelosi Thursday included discussion of the new difficulties Saudis have in getting U.S. visas, with some waiting four to five months. The lengthy process followed the Sept. 11 attacks carried out by 19 hijackers, 15 of them Saudis.

    "We told her there should be some movement on the visa issue because, while we understand the security needs, the situation is unacceptable," said Abu-Holeiqa.

    Al-Zamel also praised Pelosi's visit to Syria, saying Syria "is part of this Arab world, part of the issues to be resolved, and to ignore people gets you nowhere."

    Pelosi was the highest-ranking American politician to visit Syria since relations began to deteriorate in 2003. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell went to Damascus in May 2003.

    Washington accuses Syria of backing Hamas and Hezbollah, two groups it deems terrorist organizations, and fueling Iraq's violence by allowing Sunni insurgents to operate from its territory.

    Pelosi's visit heightened tensions between the Bush administration and congressional Democrats, who have stepped up their push for change in U.S. policy in the Mideast and the Iraq war.

    But Democrats ・and some Republicans ・said the lack of dialogue had closed doors to possible progress in resolving Mideast crises.

    Pelosi said she expressed to Assad "our concern about Syria's connections to Hezbollah and Hamas" and militant fighters slipping across the Syrian border into Iraq.

    "We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace," said Pelosi, who met for three hours with Assad.

    Assad has repeatedly said over the past year that Damascus is willing to negotiate with Israel, insisting the talks must lead to the return of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War.

    "He's ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel," Pelosi said of the Syrian leader.

    Barack Obama Collects $25 Million

    Sen. Barack Obama, presidential race, democratic nomination, 2008

    (CBS/AP) Democrat Barack Obama raked in $25 million for his presidential bid in the first three months of 2007, placing him on a par with front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and dashing her image as the party's inevitable nominee.

    Obama's fundraising number came from an official in his campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The eye-popping figure was the latest evidence that Obama, a political newcomer who has served just two years in the Senate, has emerged as the most powerful new force in presidential politics this year. It also reinforced his status as a significant threat to Clinton, who'd hoped her own $26 million first-quarter fundraising total would begin to squeeze her rivals out of contention.

    There's one key difference between Obama and Clinton, reports CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger: Obama has 100,000 donors, about twice as many as Clinton. And half of them ・50,000 people ・gave by logging on. Obama raised $6.9 million online, compared with $4.2 million for Clinton.

    While Clinton has honed a vast national fundraising network through two Senate campaigns and her husband's eight years as president, Obama launched his bid for the White House with a relatively small donor base concentrated largely in Illinois, his home state. But his early opposition to the Iraq war and voter excitement over his quest to be the first black president quickly fueled a powerful fundraising machine.

    Obama is the latest presidential hopeful to obliterate the old first-quarter fundraising records.

    Republican Mitt Romney raked in $23 million to join Clinton in the $20 million-plus club. The also-rans in the money race also reported eye-popping totals.

    Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani collected $15 million, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took in $12.5 million.

    Among Democrats, John Edwards collected $14 million. That's double what the North Carolina Democrat raised in the same time period in his last run for the White House.

    Cash wasn't always king, reports Borger. But the top candidates have opted out of the public financing system, so they can raise as much money as they want. And they'll need it. The last time the presidential race was this wide open, with no incumbent president or vice president running, was 1952.

    To understand just how awash in cash the class of 2008 is, it's only necessary to look at the previous first-quarter fundraising records. Republican Phil Gramm of Texas and Democrat Al Gore of Tennessee held the previous high-water marks: $8.7 million for Gramm in 1995 and $8.9 million for Gore in 1995.

    The fundraising totals are a crucial test for the candidates and indicate whose campaign is strongest less than a year before the first primary votes are cast. The fundraising deadline for the January through March period was Saturday, with financial reports due April 15.

    Clinton swelled her campaign war chest by transferring an additional $10 million from her Senate fundraising account, aides said. That brought her to $36 million.

    Other candidates reporting first-quarter totals included:

  • New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, said he had raised $6 million and had more than $5 million cash on hand.

  • Aides to Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut said he raised more than $4 million and transferred nearly $5 million from his Senate campaign, for a total of $9 million in receipts and $7.5 million cash on hand.

  • Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware lagged behind, with his staff reporting that he had total receipts of nearly $4 million, nearly half of which was transferred from his Senate campaign account.

  • Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a conservative darling but long-shot GOP candidate, also lagged far behind, reporting receipts of less than $2 million, including a $575,000 transfer from his Senate campaign account.

    Pelosi Tours Syria, Rebuffs Criticism

    Pelosi visits Syria

    (CBS/AP) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi mingled with Syrians in a market and made the sign of the cross at a Christian tomb Tuesday as she began a trip to Syria aimed at opening dialogue with its leader, Bashar Assad.

    President George W. Bush criticized the visit, saying it sends mixed signals to Damascus.

    Pelosi's visit was a new high-profile challenge to Bush by the majority Democrats in Congress, who are taking a more assertive role in influencing policy in the Middle East and the Iraq war.

    The United States accuses Syria of interfering in Lebanon, allowing Iraqi Sunni insurgents to operate from its territory and sponsoring terrorism for its backing of the Hamas and Hezbollah militant groups, charges Syria denies.

    The Bush administration has resisted calls to open direct talks with Damascus to convince it to help ease the crisis in Iraq and bring progress in the peace process with Israel.

    Soon after Pelosi's arrival in Damascus, Bush denounced the visit.

    "A lot of people have gone to see President Assad ... and yet we haven't seen action. He hasn't responded," he told reporters at a Rose Garden news conference. "Sending delegations doesn't work. It's simply been counterproductive."

    He said Assad had not reined in Hamas and Hezbollah and has acted to destabilize the democratically elected government of Lebanon.

    Pelosi, a California Democrat, made no comment on Bush's remarks, instead heading from the airport to Damascus' historic Old City for a tour to meet Syrians face-to-face. She is to meet Assad on Wednesday.

    Draping a flowered scarf over her hair and donning a black abaya robe, Pelosi visited the 8th Century Omayyad Mosque, shaking hands with Syrian women inside and watching men in a religion class sitting cross-legged on the floor.

    She stopped at an elaborate tomb inside the mosque said to contain the head of John the Baptist and made the sign of the cross in front of the tomb. About 10 percent of Syria's 18 million people are Christian.

    At the nearby outdoor Bazouriyeh market, Syrians crowded around her, offered her dried figs and nuts and chatted with her. She strolled past shops selling olive oil soaps, spices and herbs, and at one point bought some coconut sweets and eyed jewelry and carpets.

    The tour sought to highlight the Democrats' stark differences with the Bush administration's policy of shunning Damascus, which they have depicted as a failure.

    In other developments:

  • The weeklong biblical holiday of Passover has begun in Israel, and CBS News correspondent Robert Berger reports security is tight. Police are out in force amid fears of terror attacks, but residents are used to it. "We want security and we can feel they're doing their job so we'll be safe," Jerusalem resident Talia Adar told Berger. Jerusalem's Old City will be awash with both Jewish and Christian pilgrims this week, as Passover coincides with Easter.

  • While most Israelis are secular, a poll shows that 94 percent participate in a traditional Passover Seder meal, higher observance than any other holiday. "Tremendous popularity. It touches all the bases: It's got songs, it has wisdom, it has deep insights into life, into the human condition," said Rabbi Stuart Weiss.

  • Palestinian journalists are holding a three-day strike to protest the kidnapping of BBC TV correspondent Alan Johnston three weeks ago in Gaza. Kidnappings are frequent in Gaza, reports Berger, but Johnston has been held longer than any other foreign journalist.

    Top Court Rejects Gitmo Detainees' Appeal

    A detainee, name, nationality, and facial identification not permitted, holds onto a fence as a U.S. military guard walks past, within the grounds of the maximum security prison at Camp 5

    (CBS/AP) he Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from Guantanamo detainees who want challenge their five-year-long confinement in court, a victory for the Bush administration's legal strategy in its fight against terrorism.

    The victory may be only temporary, however. The high court twice previously has extended legal protections to prisoners at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. These individuals were seized as potential terrorists following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and only 10 have been charged with a crime.

    Despite the earlier rulings, none of the roughly 385 detainees has yet had a hearing in a civilian court challenging his detention because the administration has moved aggressively to limit the legal rights of prisoners it has labeled as enemy combatants.

    "This is a huge setback for the detainees and a big boost for the administration," says CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen, "because it allows, for now, the tribunal process to go forward down in Cuba".

    But, Cohen cautions, "What the justices did today in refusing to hear the case doesn't mean they won't ultimately hear and decide it. In fact, they probably will, but after the detainees go through their trials at Gitmo."

    A federal appeals court in Washington in February upheld a key provision of a law enacted last year that strips federal courts of their ability to hear such challenges.

    At issue is whether prisoners held at Guantanamo have a right to habeas corpus review, a basic tenet of the Constitution that protects people from unlawful imprisonment.

    The detainees' core argument is that no matter where they are held by American authorities, they are entitled to access to U.S. courts. They want the court to strike down the new law as unconstitutional.

    Former military officers, diplomats and federal judges joined the detainees in urging the court to take prompt action. The court "held in no uncertain terms that the Guantanamo detainees were entitled to habeas corpus review to challenge the lawfulness of their detention," they said in their supporting brief. "But since that decision in June 2004, the court's mandate has been frustrated and not a single detainee has had a habeas hearing in federal court."

    But the administration said that because of changes in the law since 2004 there was no need for the justices to hurry. Congress has authorized military hearings to assess whether the prisoners are being properly detained as enemy combatants. Those decisions can be appealed in a limited fashion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the same court that ruled in the administration's favor in February.

    "There is no need for this court to assess the adequacy of before it has taken place," Solicitor General Paul Clement, the administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, wrote.

    The court is likely to be faced with the same cases it rejected Monday once the appeals court begins conducting reviews.

    Clement also argued that the appeals court was correct in holding that aliens outside the United States have no rights under the U.S. Constitution.

    Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter voted to accept the appeals. "The questions presented are significant ones warranting our review," Breyer wrote. In addition, Breyer and Souter said they would have heard the case on a fast track, as the detainees requested.

    And in a sign that the court has not had its final say on the matter, Justices Anthony Kennedy and John Paul Stevens made clear in a separate opinion that they were rejecting the appeals only on procedural grounds.

    It takes four votes among the nine justices to accept a case.

    Bipartisan proposals already have been introduced in the Democratic-led Congress to rewrite the 2006 law that swept away the detainees' access to U.S. courts. It was enacted by the then-GOP majority at the request of the White House.

    The Supreme Court has twice thwarted the administration's efforts to keep the detainees out of the courts.

    The Bush administration has reacted to each of the two previous rebuffs by undertaking remedial measures.

    In 2004, the justices ruled that the courts can hear the detainees' cases, saying that prisoners under U.S. control have access to civilian courts, no matter where they are being held. remedial measures. "The courts of the United States have traditionally been open to nonresident aliens," Stevens wrote in Rasul V. Bush.

    In 2006, the justices ruled that President Bush's plan for military war crimes trials, envisioned for a small number of Guantanamo Bay detainees, is illegal under U.S. and international law. The justices also said a law that Congress passed in 2005 to limit federal court lawsuits by Guantanamo detainees did not apply to pending cases.

    After the Supreme Court ruling in 2004, the Pentagon set up panels that reviewed whether each of the detainees had been correctly categorized as an enemy combatant, and therefore not entitled to any legal rights.

    After the justices' ruling in 2006, Congress at the urging of the White House enacted the law which blocked detainees from coming into U.S. courts and established new rules for the military trials.

    Clinton sets fundraising record

    Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton

    Senator Hillary Clinton has raised a record amount of funds for her campaign to become the first female president of the United States, her aides say.

    Her campaign manager said Mrs Clinton had raised more than $26m (」13m) in the first quarter of 2007.

    The figure dwarfs the $8.9m raised by the former Vice President, Al Gore, at the same stage of the 2000 US election.

    Mrs Clinton is considered a frontrunner to become the Democratic Party's candidate for the 2008 elections.

    She also transferred an additional $10m from her Senate fundraising account to her presidential bid.

    Suggesting a broad appeal, Mrs Clinton's aides said 50,000 donors were recorded in all 50 states and that 80% of donations were for $100 or less.

    The Clinton campaign did not specify how much of the $36m was earmarked for the primary election and how much could be used in the general election, if she were to become the Democratic nominee.

    It was not revealed how much had spent over the three-month period.

    Leading rivals

    Mrs Clinton's funds total will be measured against her leading Democratic rivals Senator Barack Obama and former senator John Edwards.

    There was no immediate word from either camp on Sunday, however Mr Obama has been aggressively fundraising and aides said he had more than 83,000 donors.

    In an interview with the Associated Press news agency, Mr Obama said he thought his team would "do well".

    "I think that we should meet people's expectations, more importantly I think we will have raised enough money to make sure we can compete for the next quarter and beyond."

    US rejects Iran captives exchange

    Faye Turney

    US officials have ruled out a deal to exchange 15 Royal Navy personnel captured in the Gulf for five Iranians seized by American forces in Iraq.

    State department spokesman Sean McCormack rejected suggestions that a swap could be made.

    The five, believed to be members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, were seized in January in the Iraqi city of Irbil.

    Britain denies Iran's claims that the UK crew were in its waters when seized on 23 March.


    The five Iranians were captured in a raid along with equipment which the Americans say shows clear Iranian links to networks supplying Iraqi insurgents with technology and weapons.

    US officials have condemned Iran's actions and publicly supported the UK.

    But the BBC's James Coomerasamy said they are otherwise seeking to stay out of the dispute.

    A Pentagon spokesman said the stand-off was a "delicate situation at a critical stage".

    Earlier, Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned Iran for "parading" the UK crew on television in a way which would only "enhance people's sense of disgust".

    In a broadcast on Iranian television, sailor Nathan Thomas Summers said: "I would like to apologise for entering your waters without permission."

    He was shown alongside two colleagues, including Leading Seaman Faye Turney, 26, from Shropshire, who was broadcast apologising to Iran earlier in the week.

    On Friday a third letter, allegedly from LS Turney, was released on Friday in which she said she had been "sacrificed" to UK and US government policy.

    Bush And Democrats Near Iraq Showdown

    (CBS/AP) President Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress lurched toward a veto showdown over Iraq on Wednesday, the commander in chief demanding a replenishment of war funding with no strings and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi counseling him, "Calm down, take a breath."

    Mr. Bush said imposition of a "specific and random date of withdrawal would be disastrous" for U.S. troops in Iraq and he predicted that lawmakers would take the blame if the money ran short.

    "The clock is ticking for our troops in the field," he said. "If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible."

    Mr. Bush spoke as the Senate moved toward passage of legislation that would require the beginning of a troop withdrawal within 120 days and would set a goal of March 31, 2008, for its completion.

    The final vote on the Senate bill is expected Thursday, CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

    According to a new CBS News poll conducted before Tuesday's Senate vote, 59 percent of those surveyed favored the proposal while 37 percent are opposed.

    The House approved a more sweeping measure last week, including a mandatory withdrawal deadline for nearly all combat troops of Sept. 1, 2008.

    Both bills would provide more than $90 billion to sustain military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    After passage, the next step would be a House-Senate compromise measure almost certain to include conditions that Mr. Bush has said he finds objectionable. The president's remarks seemed designed to lay the political groundwork for a veto showdown with the new Democratic majority later this spring.

    Confidently predicting his veto would be sustained in Congress, he said, "Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements and start providing vital funds for our troops. They need to get that bill to my desk so I can sign it into law."

    One key Democrat with longtime ties to the Pentagon, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said Mr. Bush was exaggerating, and he estimated the real deadline for a fresh infusion of funds was June 1.

    Gordon Adams, a former Clinton administration official specializing in defense issues, said the Pentagon has authority to transfer existing funds between accounts. "So into June, while it's painful, it's possible" for the military to maintain operations, he said.

    Sen. John McCain, a 2008 Republican presidential aspirant and one of the war's most ardent supporters, told CBS' The Early Show that Senate Democrats, "made a big mistake yesterday."

    McCain explained successes such as the U.S. military's gaining trust with sheiks in the Anbar province and diminishing violence in Baghdad demands that the U.S. pushes forward in Iraq.

    "We mismanaged this war for four years. And it's taken a while. And it will take a while longer," McCain said. Echoing the president, the Arizona Republican said the consequences of failure "will follow us home."

    "The Congress has two congressional authorities: one is to declare war, one is to fund wars. Congress has no authority to manage wars," McCain said. "If they want them home as they say they do, then cut off funds and bring them home tomorrow.

    "But see if they did that, then they would have responsibility for the consequences of doing that," McCain said.

    Senate Backs Iraq Pullout Deadline

    (CBS/AP) The Democratic-controlled Senate narrowly signaled support Tuesday for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by next March, triggering an instant veto threat from the White House in a deepening dispute between Congress and commander in chief. Republican attempts to scuttle the nonbinding timeline failed, 50-48, largely along party lines.

    President Bush is said to be "disappointed" by the Senate vote, reports CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, but White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says the measure's timeline for withdrawal from Iraq has no chance of becoming law – because if the bill ever reaches Mr. Bush's desk, he'll veto it. The vote marked the Senate's most forceful challenge to date of the administration's handling of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,200 U.S. troops. It came days after the House approved a binding withdrawal deadline of Sept. 1, 2008, and increased the likelihood of a veto confrontation this spring.

    After weeks of setbacks on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid said the moment was at hand to “send a message to President Bush that the time has come to find a new way forward in this intractable war.” “It is a choice between staying the course in Iraq or changing the course in Iraq,” he said. But Republicans — and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent Democrat — argued otherwise. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a presidential hopeful, said “we are starting to turn things around” in the Iraq war, and added that critics “conceive no failure as worse than remaining in Iraq and no success worthy of additional sacrifice. They are wrong.” Similar legislation drew only 48 votes in the Senate earlier this month, but Democratic leaders made a change that persuaded Nebraska's Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson to swing behind the measure. Additionally, GOP Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon sided with the Democrats, assuring them of the majority they needed to turn back a challenge led by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. “The president's strategy is taking America deeper and deeper into this quagmire with no exit strategy,” said Hagel, the most vocal Republican critic of the war in Congress.

    Vice President Dick Cheney traveled to the Capitol in case his vote was needed to break a tie, a measure of the importance the administration places on the issue. The debate came on legislation that provides $122 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as domestic priorities such relief to hurricane victims and payments to farmers. Final passage is expected Wednesday or Thursday. Separately, a minimum wage increase was attached to the spending bill without controversy, along with companion tax cuts that the Republicans have demanded as the price for their support of the increase in the federal wage floor. The House and Senate have passed different versions of the minimum wage-tax package, but they have yet to reach a compromise.

    The House has already passed legislation requiring troops to be withdrawn by Sept. 1, 2008. The Senate vote assured that the Democratic-controlled Congress would send Bush legislation later this spring that calls for a change in war policy. A veto appears to be a certainty. That would put the onus back on the Democrats, who would have to decide how long they wanted to extend the test of wills in the face of what are likely to be increasingly urgent statements from the administration that the money is needed for troops in the war zone. “I hope he will work with us so we can come up with something agreeable for both” sides, Reid said at a post-vote news conference. “But I'm not anxious to strip anything out of the bill.” As drafted, the legislation requires a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days, with a nonbinding goal that calls for the combat troops to be gone within a year. The measure also includes a series of suggested goals for the Iraqi government to meet to provide for its own security, enhance democracy and distribute its oil wealth fairly — provisions designed to attract support from Nelson and Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Despite the change, Pryor voted with Republicans, saying he would only support a timeline if the date were secret. The vote was a critical test for Reid and the new Democratic majority in the Senate nearly three months after they took power. Despite several attempts, they had yet to win approval for any legislation challenging Bush's policies. Republicans prevented debate over the winter on nonbinding measures critical of Bush's decision to deploy an additional 21,500 troops. That led to the 50-48 vote derailing of a bill that called for a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days but set only a nonbinding target of March 31, 2008, for the departure of the final combat forces.

    Some Democrats said they would support the nonbinding timetable even though they wanted more. “I want a deadline not only for commencing the withdrawal of our forces but also completing it rather than a target date,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “This provision represents a 90-degree change of course from the president's policy of escalation in the middle of a civil war,” he said. “I'm confident once the withdrawal of our troops begins there will be no turning back.” Lieberman, who won a new term last fall in a three-way race after losing the Democratic nomination to an anti-war insurgent, depicted the vote as a turning point. He said the effect of the timeline would be to “snatch defeat from the jaws of progress in Iraq.”

    Clinton Promises Universal Health Care

    (AP) Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed Monday to create a universal health care system if elected, saying she "learned a lot" during the failed health care effort of her husband's presidency.

    "We're going to have universal health care when I'm president ・there's no doubt about that. We're going to get it done," the New York senator and front-runner for the 2008 nomination said.

    Clinton focused on health care issues during an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" broadcast from the state where precinct caucuses will launch the presidential nominating season.

    Asked how she could improve on her failed effort to reform health care during her husband's presidency, Clinton said pressure for change has built in the last decade and that would make tackling the issue easier.

    "I believe the American people are going to make this an issue," said Clinton. "I believe we're in a better position today to do that than we were in '93 and '94. ... It's one of the reasons I'm running for president."

    After the televised meeting, Clinton headed to a Des Moines elementary school to receive the endorsement of former Gov. Tom Vilsack and his wife, Christie.

    "Hillary Clinton has been tried and tested like no other candidate for president," Tom Vilsack said.

    His wife added, "To me, this is not just an endorsement but a commitment."

    Clinton said her relationship with the Vilsacks dates to her work in the 1970s with Christie Vilsack's late brother, lawyer Tom Bell.

    "We will be crisscrossing Iowa and crisscrossing America," Clinton said.

    In her earlier appearance, Clinton argued that health coverage has deteriorated over the last decade, and that's increased public pressure to act.

    "The number of uninsured has grown," said Clinton. "It's hard to ignore the fact that nearly 47 million people don't have health insurance, but also because so many people with insurance have found it's difficult to get health care because the insurance companies deny you what you need."

    Clinton opened her latest campaign swing with a live broadcast from the Science Center of Iowa, where she spoke to more than 200 activists at a town meeting about health care issues. It's an issue with which she is very familiar. After her husband won the White House in 1992, she headed an effort to put a universal health care system in place. That effort eventually collapsed under pressure in part from the insurance industry.

    However, while Clinton said the issue continues to be a high priority for her, she has not offered up a specific plan. One questioner at the town hall meeting held up a copy of a DVD containing a detailed description of Democratic rival John Edwards' plan for universal health care, asking Clinton if she will also offer specifics.

    The reason she hasn't "set out a plan and said here's exactly what I will do," Clinton said, is that she wants to hear from voters what kind of plan they would favor.

    "I want the ideas that people have," said Clinton. She said any health care plan must deal with the reality that there's a unique climate in the country.

    "We are bigger and more diverse and people like their choice," said Clinton.

    Edwards, a former North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic runningmate, has said it's inevitable that taxes would have to go up to finance an expensive health care plan. Clinton disagreed.

    "We've got to get the costs under control," said Clinton. "Why would we put more money into a dysfunctional system?"

    Clinton sidestepped a question on whether she'd consider Vilsack as a potential running mate should she win the nomination.

    "I am a very big fan of Governor Vilsack," Clinton said, adding that he has "the kind of practical but visionary leadership we need in our country."

    Vilsack was the first Democrat to formally enter the 2008 presidential race in November, but he dropped out last month citing the difficulty in raising the tens of millions of dollars necessary to mount a credible bid.

    Rice seeks renewed Mid East push

    Condoleezza Rice (left) and Hosni Mubarak (right) The US Secretary of State has called on the Palestinians and Israel to agree a "common agenda" to move forward on establishing a Palestinian state.

    "Now we are in a situation in which I think a bilateral approach, in which I talk in parallel to the parties... is the best way," Condoleezza Rice said.

    She also called for renewed effort from Arab and Western states on the issue.

    Ms Rice was speaking after talks in the West Bank town of Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

    "I think that it is extremely important that there be a political horizon for the Palestinian people," she said. "And I sincerely hope that in the future the parties themselves can talk about that political horizon among themselves."

    War of words

    But she said it was essential that the Palestinian government accept international demands to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

    Ms Rice will later meet the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

    Mr Olmert on Sunday expressed what correspondents said was unusually blunt criticism of Mr Abbas, accusing the Palestinian leader of violating a promise to free a captured Israeli soldier before forming a new Palestinian national unity government.

    "We can't ignore the fact that the chairman of the Palestinian Authority blatantly violated a series of commitments to Israel, especially the commitment that no national unity government would be formed before Gilad Shalit's release," Mr Olmert said.

    This refers to the seizure of an Israeli soldier by Hamas-linked militants last June.

    Palestinians have said that Mr Abbas never made such a promise, although he has said he would do his best to work for Cpl Shalit's release.

    "There is no excuse for Israel to continue to run from serious negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organisation and President Abbas," said senior Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rudeina.

    United effort

    Mr Olmert's remarks came several hours before Ms Rice was due in Jerusalem for talks as she continues her shuttle diplomacy aimed at restarting the dormant Middle East peace process.

    Ms Rice's trip is her seventh to the region in eight months.

    Washington has not recognised the Palestinian unity government, but says it will talk to ministers who are not members of the Islamic group Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist group.

    Earlier, Ms Rice held talks in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan with President Hosni Mubarak where the pair discussed ways to reinvigorate the peace process.

    Addressing a news conference afterwards, Ms Rice said she hoped every state would "search very deep" to see how it could help end the conflict.

    "The Palestinian people have waited long enough to have a state of their own and the Israeli people have waited long enough to have the kind of security that will come from the establishment of a stable and democratic neighbour to live in peace with," Ms Rice said.

    Bush To Dems: Opposition Wastes Time

    (CBS/AP) resident George W. Bush accused the Democratic-led Congress of wasting taxpayers' time picking fights with the White House instead of resolving disputes over money for U.S. troops and the firings of the U.S. attorneys.

    In his weekly radio address Saturday, Bush called on Democratic leaders in Congress to move beyond political discord and take bipartisan action on both issues that have driven a wedge between the Bush administration and Capitol Hill.

    He urged them to accept his offer to allow lawmakers to interview his advisers about the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors ・but not under oath ・and provide documents detailing communications they had about the firings with outside parties.

    Democrats, armed with subpoenas for Bush's top political adviser Karl Rove and other top aides, are pressing the White House to allow the advisers to answer questions under oath about the firing of eight federal prosecutors. Bush says the Democrats are simply playing politics, trying to create a media spectacle.

    "Members of Congress now face a choice: whether they will waste time and provoke an unnecessary confrontation, or whether they will join us in working to do the people's business," Bush said. "We have many important issues before us. So we need to put partisan politics aside and come together to enact important legislation for the American people."

    The president also accused Democrats of partisanship in the House vote on Friday for a war spending bill that requires combat operations in Iraq to cease before September 2008.

    Democrats said it was time to heed the mandate of their election sweep last November, which gave them control of Congress. Passage marked their most brazen challenge yet to Bush on a war that has killed more than 3,200 troops and lost favor with the American public.

    Bush said the emergency spending bill the House narrowly passed, 218-212, would cut the number of troops below a level that U.S. military commanders say they need and set an artificial timetable for withdrawal.

    "By choosing to make a political statement and passing a bill they know will never become law, the Democrats in Congress have only delayed the delivery of the vital funds and resources our troops need," Bush said. "The clock is running. The Secretary of Defense has warned that if Congress does not approve the emergency funding for our troops by April 15, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions ・and so will their families."

    The $124 billion House legislation would pay for war operations this year but would require that combat troops come home before September 2008 ・or earlier if the Iraqi government did not meet certain requirements.

    Bush said that to get the votes needed to pass the bill, House Democrats included billions of dollars in domestic spending for local congressional districts, including $74 million for peanut storage and $25 million for spinach growers, that has nothing to do with the war.

    "Even with all this extra spending tacked on, the vote in the House was very close," Bush said. "This means that the Democrats do not have enough votes to override my veto."

    Ownership of the phrase "the people's business" was contested in the Democratic Party's response to the president's address this morning by New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes.

    Hodes, elected in November, was part of the Democratic takeover of both chambers of Congress. He has opposed the war and any efforts to escalate it.

    "Last November, people in New Hampshire and across the country voted for change. They voted for a new Congress that would stop acting as a rubber stamp for this president and begin confronting the problems and challenges facing our nation," Hodes said.

    The Democrats' plan to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq next year responds to voters' demand for change, Hodes said.

    The Senate is expected to take up legislation as early as Monday.

    Edwards Facing Personal, Political Battles

    Democratic Presidential hopeful John Edwards, left, listens to his wife Elizabeth speak about her recurrence of cancer

    (CBS/AP) Once breast cancer returns to spread beyond the breast, it's no longer curable ,but it can be held in check, sometimes for years, depending on how aggressive the tumor proves to be.

    The average survival rate has been 2 1/2 to five years, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports. But doctors say the odds are improving, thanks to newer therapies that target the cancer with fewer side effects.

    Doctors don't yet know exactly how widespread Elizabeth Edwards' returned cancer is, beyond a small but definite spot found in her right rib after she coincidentally broke a rib on the other side. Also being checked out is a suspicious spot in her lung.

    "We can suppress it, we can even shrink it, but we can't eradicate it," said Dr. Lisa Carey, Edwards' oncologist.

    But the key question when breast cancer turns metastatic ・the doctor's ominous term for spreading cancer ・is whether it is hormone-sensitive.

    John Edwards revealed the closely guarded prognosis ・even family friends and some senior campaign staff were unaware ・at a news conference Thursday, his wife by his side in the hotel garden where they held their wedding reception 30 years ago.

    Putting to rest speculation about his political future, Edwards told reporters: "The campaign goes on. The campaign goes on strongly."

    The recurrence of the cancer ・this time on Elizabeth Edwards' bone ・presents a setback for the couple, both personally and politically. Elizabeth Edwards' illness and treatment is certain to affect her husband's presence in the early voting states and may raise questions about the viability of his campaign, especially with financial backers. The first fundraising deadline is fast approaching on March 31.

    Her health problems already have impacted the campaign. Edwards had canceled a Tuesday evening house party in Iowa to go with his wife to a doctor's appointment.

    No matter where breast cancer turns up in the body, if its growth is fueled by estrogen, women have a better chance of longer survival ・and a shot at controlling the cancer with a battery of anti-estrogen drugs instead of needing harsher chemotherapy, at least right away.

    Carey didn't reveal whether Edwards' cancer is this better "estrogen receptor-positive" form, saying that she was awaiting further test results before deciding on a treatment.

    "It's hopefully and very likely treatable," said Dr. Julia Smith, head of the New York University Cancer Institutes' breast cancer prevention program. But, "it will limit her life ... The goal now is to give the least amount of therapy and least toxic therapy, and drag it out for as long as possible, so she can have the best quality of life as long as possible."

    Almost 213,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and almost 41,000 will die, according to the American Cancer Society. When caught early, the vast majority survive with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, just as Edwards had in November 2004.

    But about 20 percent of women thought to have been treated successfully at first nonetheless see their cancer return. How soon that happens, where it happens and how soon it's caught helps determines their prognosis.

    There are few good estimates of survival time for these patients. But treatment is easiest if the recurrence is limited to the breast or surrounding lymph nodes. Survival is much shorter if the cancer spreads aggressively to vital organs like the liver, lungs or brain.

    The bone seems to be somewhere in the middle. Indeed, a subset of patients with estrogen receptor-positive tumors that appear in only the bone have a good chance at surviving for 10 years, said NYU's Smith. "Unfortunately, we don't know who that group is in advance," she said.

    Edwards' oncologist offered no survival predictions, either.

    "I don't have a crystal ball about how she is going to do. I can tell you that many patients with exactly the circumstances that she has, do very well for a number of years," Carey said. "And the fact that she is a healthy person, and that there isn't a lot of the cancer, and that she doesn't have symptoms, all work in her favor."

    Edwards' recurrence happened fairly early, just over two years after her initial diagnosis. But she said she blessed the broken rib that warranted the X-ray this week that in turn uncovered the cancer lurking nearby.

    "I'm very lucky I cracked this rib," she said.

    Bush advisers ordered to testify

    US President George W Bush

    A Congressional committee has voted to order key White House aides to testify under oath about the controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors.

    The move could set up a constitutional showdown with the White House, which says it will only allow the aides to speak privately, and not under oath.

    Congress wants to question Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, as well as Mr Bush's former lawyer.

    Critics say last year's sacking of the attorneys was politically motivated.

    Mr Bush's Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, has faced calls to resign over the dismissals.

    The president has thus far stood by Mr Gonzales, a long-time confidant from their days in Texas before they came to Washington together.

    Private offer

    Mr Gonzales says the prosecutors were dismissed because their performances were below standard.

    Congressional investigations have found that Mr Bush's former counsel, Harriet Miers, proposed firing all 93 US attorneys nationwide in 2005.

    One of the sacked attorneys was replaced by a former aide to Mr Rove.

    Mr Bush said on Tuesday that Congress should accept his offer to let his aides testify privately, without oath or transcript.

    He vowed to resist any order, or subpoena, for them to testify in public, saying presidential aides would be compromised if they feared having to justify themselves publicly.

    "We will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honourable public servants," Mr Bush said.

    His spokesman said if the subpoenas were actually issued, the White House would resist them.

    The BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington says the House demand for testimony under oath sets up a constitutional battle between the president and Congress which could end up in the Supreme Court.

    Democrats' anger

    The criticism of Mr Gonzales began with the Democrats who now control Congress, but some Republicans have joined the chorus.

    The Senate voted overwhelmingly - and with bipartisan support - on Tuesday to strip Mr Gonzales of the power to appoint US attorneys without its consent.

    And the vote on Wednesday authorising the use of subpoenas to compel White House officials to testify passed on a voice vote with no dissent.

    Critics of the prosecutor firings - including some of the prosecutors themselves - say they were removed for investigating Republican officials or failing to investigate alleged vote fraud in support of Democrats.

    USS Cole suspect 'admits guilt'

    USS Cole after being hit by bombers in Yemen in 2000

    A suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole warship in Yemen has confessed to the attack, the Pentagon has said.

    Walid Mohammad bin Attash is said to have made his confession in a hearing at Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.

    Seventeen sailors died and 37 were hurt when the Cole was rammed by suicide bombers in the port of Aden in 2000.

    Mr Attash also said he helped plan the 1998 bomb attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 213, the Pentagon said.

    Partial transcripts of the alleged admission made during a closed-door hearing were released by the US defence department.

    The US hearings have been widely criticised by lawyers and human rights groups as sham tribunals, with no chance for the defendants to get a fair trial.

    Mr Attash is one of 14 "high value" detainees transferred in September from secret CIA prisons abroad to Guantanamo Bay.

    The hearing was held to determine whether Mr Attash was an "enemy combatant", which could lead to a military trial.

    'Key link'

    The alleged al-Qaeda operative is reported to have said he bought the explosives and recruited members of the team that rammed an explosives-laden boat into the USS Cole while it was refuelling.

    "I put together the plan for the operation a year and a half prior to the operation," Mr Attash told a military panel, according to the transcripts.

    Asked where he was at the time of the attack, Mr Attash reportedly said he was with al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

    According to the transcripts, Mr Attash also said he served as a key liaison in Pakistan between Bin Laden and the cell chief in Nairobi for the embassy bombings in east Africa.

    "I was the link that was available in Pakistan. I used to supply the cell with whatever documents they need - from fake stamps to visas, whatever," he said in the transcripts.

    In the 1998 near-simultaneous attacks, suicide bombers detonated trucks loaded with explosives outside the embassies, killing 213 people in Nairobi and 12 in Dar Es Salaam.

    Hearings continue

    The US military has conducted seven hearings so far of the 14 top suspects.

    Transcripts have been released for hearings concerning senior al-Qaeda suspects Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Faraj al-Libbi and Ramzi Binalshibh.

    Mr Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks admitted his role in them, and 30 other terror plots, according to the Pentagon.

    Ramzi Binalshibh, described as the co-ordinator of 9/11, refused to take any part in the proceedings, and was described as "uncooperative and unresponsive".

    Mr Libbi did not appear at the hearing but submitted a statement saying he would be keen to engage in a full legal process if he were provided with a lawyer and if witnesses were protected.

    Thousands Protest Iraq War Policy

    Cindy Sheehan, anti-war march, Washington, March 17, 2007

    Thousands Protest Iraq War Policy

    (CBS/AP) Denouncing a conflict entering its fifth year, protesters across the country raised their voices Saturday against U.S. policy in Iraq and marched by the thousands to the Pentagon in the footsteps of an epic demonstration four decades ago against another divisive war. A counterprotest was staged, too, on a day of dueling signs and sentiments such as “Illegal Combat” and “Peace Through Strength,” and songs like “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “War (What's It Good For?).” “What I want to see come out of this administration and any administration is the troops — and then we can have some peace in the world if we have the troops,” one protestor told CBS Radio News correspondent Tom Foty.

    Thousands crossed the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial to rally loudly but peacefully near the Pentagon. “We're here in the shadow of the war machine,” said anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. “It's like being in the shadow of the death star. They take their death and destruction and they export it around the world. We need to shut it down.” Smaller protests were held in other U.S. cities, stretching to Tuesday's four-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion. In Los Angeles, Vietnam veteran Ed Ellis, 59, hoped the demonstrations would be the “tipping point” against a war that has killed more than 3,200 U.S. troops and engulfed Iraq in a deadly cycle of violence. “It's all moving in our direction, it's happening,” he predicted at the Hollywood rally. “The administration, their get-out-of-jail-free card, they don't get one anymore.” Overseas, tens of thousands marched in Madrid as Spaniards called not only for the U.S. to get out of Iraq but to close the prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Smaller protests were staged in Greece and Turkey.

    Speakers at the Pentagon rally criticized the Bush administration at every turn but blamed congressional Democrats, too, for refusing to cut off money for the war. “This is a bipartisan war,” New York City labor activist Michael Letwin told the crowd. “The Democratic party cannot be trusted to end it.” Five people were arrested after the demonstration when they walked onto a bridge that had been closed off to accommodate the protest and then refused orders to leave so police could reopen it to traffic, Pentagon police spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin said. They were cited and released, she said. President Bush was at Camp David in Maryland for the weekend. Spokesman Blair Jones said of the protests: “Our Constitution guarantees the right to peacefully express one's views. The men and women in our military are fighting to bring the people of Iraq the same rights and freedoms.”

    People traveled from afar in stormy weather to join the march. “Too many people have died and it doesn't solve anything,” said Ann O'Grady, who drove through snow with her husband, Tom, and two children, 13 and 10, from Athens, Ohio. “I feel bad carrying out my daily activities while people are suffering, Americans and Iraqis.” Police on horseback and foot separated the two groups of demonstrators, who shouted at each other from opposite sides of Constitution Avenue in view of the Lincoln Memorial before the anti-war group marched. Barriers also kept them apart. But war protester Susanne Shine of Boone, N.C., found herself in a crowd of counterdemonstrators, and came out in tears, with her sign in shreds. “They ripped up my peace sign,” she said, after police escorted her, her husband and two adult daughters from the group. “It was really pretty scary for me.”

    Protesters walked in a blustery, cold wind across the Potomac River with motorcycles clearing their way and police boats and helicopters watching. Police no longer give official estimates but said privately that perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 anti-war demonstrators marched, with a smaller but still sizable number of counterprotesters also out in force. An hour into the three-hour Pentagon rally, with the temperature near freezing, protesters had peeled away to a point where fewer than 1,000 were left.

    Protesters met at the starting point of the Oct. 21, 1967, march on the Pentagon, which began peacefully but turned ugly in clashes between authorities and more radical elements of the estimated crowd of 50,000 on the plaza in front of the Defense Department's headquarters. More than 600 were arrested that day. That protest has lived on in the popular imagination because of the crowd's attempts to lift the Pentagon off the ground with their chants; they fell short of their fanciful goal. Veterans lined up at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and waved U.S, POW-MIA and military-unit flags. “They’ve got no business using our wall as a backdrop for their anti-war demonstration,” one veteran told Eve Chen of CBS radio station WTOP.

    Not all were committed to the U.S. course in Iraq, however. “I'm not sure I'm in support of the war,” said William “Skip” Publicover of Charleston, S.C., who was a swift boat gunner in Vietnam and lost two friends whose names are etched on the memorial's wall. “I learned in Vietnam that it's difficult if not impossible to win the hearts and minds of the people.” But Larry Stimeling, 57, a Vietnam veteran from Morton, Ill., said the loss of public support for the Iraq war mirrors what happened in Vietnam and leaves troops without the backing they need. “We didn't lose the war in Vietnam, we lost it right here on this same ground,” he said, pointing to the grass on the National Mall. “It's the same thing now.” Opening weekend events, more than 200 were arrested in a demonstration late Friday in front of the White House and charged with disobeying a lawful order or crossing a police line.

    Ex-CIA agent blasts White House

    Former CIA covert agent Valerie Plame Wilson

    Secret CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson has accused senior Bush administration officials of "carelessly and recklessly" revealing her identity.

    The comments were her first public statements on a political scandal which rocked Washington.

    She says her identity was revealed in 2003 to discredit her husband, a former diplomat, for criticising the Iraq war.

    No-one has been charged over the leak, but the vice-president's former top aide was convicted of perjury.

    Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Dick Cheney, resigned from his role as chief of staff and was convicted of perjury and obstruction in the case earlier this month.

    He could face up to 25 years in prison.

    A US former Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, has admitted that he first disclosed that Ms Plame was an undercover CIA agent.


    Former US ambassador and Ms Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, stated publicly that the case for war against Iraq and the threat the country posed had been exaggerated.

    Soon after his comments, government sources revealed the secret identity of his wife to US media.

    Ms Plame said she had always been aware that her identity might have been discovered by foreign governments but never expected her own to leak her role.

    "It was a terrible irony that administration officials were the ones who destroyed my cover," Ms Plame told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

    Democrats push Iraq pull-out plan

    US soldier on patrol in Iraq

    A Democratic plan to withdraw all US troops from Iraq by next year has been passed by a key House panel - but failed to win approval in the Senate.

    The Senate resolution, which needed 60 votes to pass, would have set a goal of withdrawing all troops by March 2008.

    Earlier, the House Appropriations Committee approved a war spending bill which ties the money to a schedule for withdrawal by September next year.

    But correspondents say it is doomed because it will never pass the Senate.

    Even if it did, President George W Bush has made it clear he would veto any such legislation, saying it would only embolden the enemy, the BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington says.

    Scaling back

    The bill passed by the House panel calls for the re-deployment to begin as early as July this year, unless Mr Bush can certify that progress is being made in bringing order to the violence-wracked country.

    At the latest, it would start in March 2008 and be completed within six months.

    The legislation is tied to $124bn (」64bn) emergency funding to continue US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    It was passed by the Democrat-controlled House Appropriations Committee by 37-27 votes.

    Representative David Obey, Democratic committee chairman, said: "We are trying to deliver a message to the politicians in Iraq that we are not going to sit around forever watching them dither, watching them refuse to compromise, while our troops die."

    The top Republican on the panel, Representative Bill Young, said that while he wanted American troops out of Iraq, the US "can't afford to turn over Iraq to al-Qaeda".

    In the Senate, the binding resolution put forward by Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid fell 12 votes short of the 60 it needed to pass, with 50 against and 48 for.

    If approved, it would have obliged Mr Bush to begin scaling back the Iraq mission within four months of its adoption.

    The proposal set a goal of withdrawing all US combat troops from Iraq by the end of March 2008.

    Hillary Clinton Uses Once-Derided Phrase To Attack GOP On Election Irregularities

    (AP) The "vast, right-wing conspiracy" is back, presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is warning, using a phrase she once coined to describe partisan plotting.

    Once derided for her use of the phrase, Clinton is now trying to turn the imagery to her advantage.

    Speaking Tuesday to Democratic municipal officials, the New York senator used the term to hammer Republicans on election irregularities. She also used the phrase similarly during a campaign appearance over the weekend in New Hampshire.

    Clinton was first lady when she famously charged allegations of an affair between her then-president husband Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky were the result of a conservative conspiracy.

    As evidence of the affair eventually came to light, the comment was ridiculed. But many Democrats have since insisted that Clinton was correct, pointing to the well-documented efforts by conservative financier Richard Mellon Scaife to fund a network of anti-Clinton investigations.

    On Tuesday, she asserted the conspiracy is alive and well, and cited as proof the Election Day 2002 case of phone jamming in New Hampshire, a case in which two Republican operatives pleaded guilty to criminal charges and a third was convicted.

    "To the New Hampshire Democratic Party's credit, they sued and the trail led all the way to the Republican National Committee," Clinton said. "So if anybody tells you there is no vast right-wing conspiracy, tell them that New Hampshire has proven it in court."

    Former RNC operative James Tobin was convicted of telephone harassment and appealed his conviction. The investigation arose after Democratic organizers' phones were overwhelmed by annoying hang-up calls hindering their get-out-the-vote efforts.

    Clinton accused the GOP of a number of other anti-voter actions, including intimidating phone calls during the contentious 2006 congressional elections.

    New Hampshire Democratic Party chairwoman Kathy Sullivan said she absolutely agreed with the senator's description of the case.

    "People think we're paranoid when we talk about the vast right-wing conspiracy, but there is a real connection of these groups ・the same names keep popping up," said Sullivan. "They are the most disgusting group of political thugs that I have ever seen."

    RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt responded that Democrats "might be disappointed to learn that almost a decade later, the senator's playbook consists of little more than a resurrection of Clinton-era talking points."

    Clinton made her charge of conspiracy in response to a question about her proposed bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday, and make it a crime to send misleading or fraudulent information to voters.

    She also said the government should do more to end unusually long lines at certain polling places.

    "It just so happens that many of those places where people are waiting for hours are places where people of color are voting or young people are voting. That is un-American, and we're going to end it," Clinton said.

    Secret Hearings For 9/11 Suspects Start

    (AP) Secret hearings for two suspected masterminds of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and a third terror suspect were held over the weekend at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the military launched proceedings to determine whether 14 high-profile detainees should be prosecuted.

    According to U.S. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman, hearings for Abu Faraj al-Libi and Ramzi Binalshibh were Friday, and a hearing for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was Saturday. He said another hearing at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba was scheduled for Monday.

    The hearings are to determine whether the detainees should be declared "enemy combatants" who can be held indefinitely and prosecuted in a military tribunal.

    Mohammed, who was born in Pakistan and raised in Kuwait, is believed to have been the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks with the alleged help of Binalshibh, a Yemeni who also is suspected of being involved in a foiled plot to crash aircraft into London's Heathrow Airport.

    Al-Libi is a Libyan regarded by Pakistani intelligence as a successor to Mohammed as the third-ranking al Qaeda leader. He became the most wanted man in Pakistan for reportedly masterminding two bombings 11 days apart in December 2003 that targeted President Pervez Musharraf for his support of the U.S.-led war on terror. Musharraf narrowly escaped injury, but 17 other people were killed.

    Whitman said that at least one of detainees did not attend the sessions. In those instances the cases are considered in absentia. Whitman would not say which suspects did not attend the hearings. Edited transcripts of the hearings will be released later, he said.

    The 14 high-profile detainees were moved in September from a secret CIA prison network to the prison at Guantanamo Bay, where the U.S. holds about 385 men on suspicion of links to al Qaeda or the Taliban.

    Bush thanks Colombia for drug aid

    George W Bush and his wife Laura arrive in Bogota, Colombia

    US President George W Bush has thanked Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe for his support in the anti-drugs war.

    Mr Bush was in Colombia's capital, Bogota, for a six-hour visit as part of his five-nation Latin American tour.

    Nearby, at least 25 people were arrested as riot police using tear gas clashed with demonstrators protesting against Mr Bush's visit.

    The visit is overshadowed by a scandal about alleged links between Mr Uribe's allies and right-wing paramilitaries.

    Death-squad denial

    President Uribe denied any ties between members of his government and the death squads at a joint press conference with Mr Bush on Sunday.

    "If there are members of this government that have links to these guerrillas they will immediately be removed from their offices," he said.

    Colombia is one of the largest recipients of US aid to help fight a long-running war against left-wing guerrillas and drug traffickers.

    Some US Democrats are questioning a White House request for $3.9bn in new aid over the next seven years as well as the wisdom of a US trade deal with Colombia.

    Since 2000, Colombia has received billions of dollars of US funds and military hardware.

    Security tight

    Last week, Mr Bush defended the $700m-a-year aid programme and expressed his determination to press for congressional approval of free trade agreements signed with Colombia and Peru.

    There have been concerns that guerrillas might try to disrupt the meeting between Mr Bush and Mr Uribe by launching fresh attacks.

    Colombian authorities deployed 21,000 troops in addition to 7,000 police who will be responsible for security during Mr Bush's visit.

    President Bush is in Colombia for a few hours, before heading for Guatemala later on Sunday. He has already visited Brazil and Uruguay.

    Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is on a tour of Latin America at the same time.

    On Saturday during a visit to Bolivia, he launched a stinging attack on the US.

    Mr Chavez described capitalism as "the road to hell". He underlined the billions of dollars of aid Venezuela is ploughing into Bolivia's economy at a time when the US is reducing its contributions.

    President Bush has avoided discussing his rival's regional trip during his own visit to promote trade.

    Mr Bush's presence in Latin American states has been met with protests and marches, some of which have turned violent.

    About 150 protesters clashed with riot police in Bogota after Mr Bush landed on Sunday, with at least 25 arrested.

    About 20 people were arrested in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo on Friday after an estimated 6,000 people took to the streets.

    On Saturday, Mr Bush avoided the crowds by meeting the president at his rural retreat some 125 miles (200km) west of the capital.

    Mr Chavez, meanwhile, travels on to Nicaragua.

    Bush promotes trade with Uruguay

    Anti-Bush protest in Montevideo

    US President George Bush has met his Uruguayan counterpart, Tabare Vazquez, as part of his five-nation Latin American tour to promote trade.

    Mr Bush arrived in Montevideo from Brazil - where he signed a deal to develop alternative fuel sources.

    Uruguay is keen to sign free trade deals with the US, even if it means leaving the Mercosur trade bloc.

    The tour attracted protests in Brazil and about 5,000 protesters gathered in Uruguay for Mr Bush's visit.

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is conducting his own tour of the region and addressed 40,000 anti-Bush protesters in Argentina, across the River Plate from Uruguay.

    He told the rally on Friday that Latin America should stand together to fight US influence and called Mr Bush a "political corpse".

    Doha deal

    Mr Bush has defended his country's record in helping Latin American countries to fight poverty. He denied he had neglected the region.

    Mr Bush said his trip was "a statement of desire to work together with people".

    In a joint news conference at Mr Vazquez's presidential retreat in Anchorena Park, some 200km (124 miles) west of Montevideo, President Bush said trade was the best tool for fighting poverty.

    He said he had spoken to Mr Vazquez about the need to reach a deal on the Doha talks to liberalise world trade and was optimistic agreement could be reached at a global level.

    Developing nations have said that aspects of the talks, including issues of trade tariffs, may hurt poorer countries.

    Mr Bush said the US was prepared to reduce agricultural subsidies but wanted to ensure market access for its own goods.

    The news conference was dominated by media questions about Mr Chavez's trip.

    The US president refused to answer a question about why he would not acknowledge the Venezuelan president by name.

    Mr Bush will later continue to Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico while Mr Chavez heads for Bolivia.

    Democrats set Iraq pull-out plans

    A US soldier in Iraq

    Democrats in the US Congress have proposed legislation requiring all US troops to leave Iraq by August 2008.

    It is a direct challenge to President George W Bush, who has ruled out any fixed end to the Iraq operation.

    Democrats, who took control of Congress four months ago, want to tie the measure to the $100bn (」52bn) Mr Bush has requested for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    But White House staff said Mr Bush would veto the move, which they called "a non-starter".

    "What we're seeing here is an artificial, precipitous withdrawal from Iraq based on, unfortunately, politics in Washington, not conditions on the ground in Baghdad, Iraq," said presidential adviser Dan Bartlett.

    Earlier on Thursday the top US general in Iraq said that the military alone could not provide a solution to the country's conflict.

    Gen David Petraeus said it was critical that alienated groups be brought into talks. He also said he believed violence in Baghdad could be curtailed.

    The Democrats' leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said the bill would get US troops out of Iraq "safely, responsibly and soon".

    "It calls for the strategic redeployment of US combat troops some time in 2008. Only then can we refocus our military efforts on Afghanistan," she said.

    The bill calls for the redeployment to begin as early as July this year unless Mr Bush can certify that progress is being made in bringing order to the violence-wracked country. At the latest, it would start in March 2008 and be completed within six months.

    'Tying generals' hands'

    The BBC's Washington correspondent James Coomarasamy says the bill is the latest attempt by the Democratic leadership to unite a party which remains divided on how to move forward in Iraq.

    Some on the anti-war wing of the party say the bill does not go far or fast enough.

    Republicans, meanwhile, have called the proposal a vote to tie the hands of US generals in Iraq.

    House Republican Leader John Boehner said the measure amounted to "establishing and telegraphing to our enemy a timetable" and would lead to failure in Iraq.

    "[US commander in Iraq] General Petraeus should be the one making the decisions on what happens on the ground in Iraq," he added.

    At his first news conference since taking command last month, Gen Petraeus spoke of the need for political engagement to help ease the unrest in Iraq.

    "Military action is necessary to help improve security... but it is not sufficient. There needs to be a political aspect," he said, adding that some groups "who have felt the new Iraq did not have a place for them" would have to be engaged in talks.

    Security surge

    He was speaking after the US defence secretary approved an extra 2,200 military police to aid a security crackdown in Baghdad.

    The new Baghdad offensive involves US and Iraqi forces, thousands of whom are already on the ground, sweeping the city for militants and illegally held weapons.

    Gen Petraeus said: "It's too early to discern significant trends, but there have been a few encouraging signs." However he admitted "sensational attacks inevitably will continue".

    BBC defence and security correspondent Rob Watson says that despite the scale of the new Baghdad drive, there simply are not enough US troops to prevent the violence shifting to other areas.

    Our correspondent says that privately US officials believe it will not be possible to judge whether the surge has worked until all the troops have arrived in the summer and, if it does not, there will be few options remaining.

    White House official Libby guilty

    Lewis Libby outside court in Washington

    A former key White House official, Lewis Libby, has been found guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury.

    Libby, ex-chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, faces a prison term of up to 25 years. He will be sentenced in June.

    He was accused of lying to the FBI and a grand jury over revelations about CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.

    Libby's lawyer said he was "very disappointed" at the verdict, and would ask for a new trial, or would appeal.

    In a statement shortly after the verdict was announced, Mr Cheney expressed his deep disappointment, saying he was "saddened" for Libby's family.

    Libby, who goes by the nickname "Scooter", was found guilty on four out of five counts. He was acquitted on one count of lying to the FBI.

    'Honest lapses'

    Correspondents say the case shed light on the inner workings of the Bush White House.

    Critics claimed the White House had deliberately leaked Ms Plame's identity to ruin her career. Her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, had publicly cast doubt on the Bush administration's case for going to war in Iraq.

    It can be a crime to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA agent.

    The alleged cover-up, rather than the leak itself, was the subject of the trial.

    Libby told FBI investigators and a grand jury investigating the leak of Ms Plame's name, that he had learned of her identity as a CIA agent from reporters.

    However, several people testified that he discussed her identity before the date he said he learned of it.

    "He claims he forgot nine conversations with eight people over a four-week period," prosecution lawyer Peter Zeidenberg said in his closing statement.

    The defence maintained that Libby's false statements were the results of honest lapses in memory by a man tasked with extraordinary responsibility.

    "He was bombarded with a blizzard of information. Those briefings would make your toes curl," defence lawyer Theodore Wells said.

    The defence also argued that Libby was a scapegoat for the misdeeds of other White House players, like President Bush's political strategist Karl Rove.

    Bush 'saddened'

    After the verdict, and standing beside his client, who remains free until sentencing, Mr Wells said: "We have every confidence that ultimately Mr Libby will be vindicated.

    "We believe he is totally innocent, and did not do anything wrong."

    Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said he was "gratified" by the verdict, but that it was "sad" that "we had a high-level official... who obstructed justice and lied under oath".

    US President George W Bush "said that he respected the jury's verdict. He said he was saddened for Scooter Libby and his family," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

    But Senate majority leader Harry Reid said: "I welcome the jury's verdict. It's about time someone in the Bush administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics."

    A member of the jury, Denis Collins, said although jurors decided Libby was guilty they also had a "tremendous amount of sympathy" for him, and thought he might just be "the fall guy".

    "Where's Rove?" he asked, referring to Mr Bush's top aide.

    Clinton and Obama woo black votes

    Barack Obama in Selma, Alabama

    Democratic rivals Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama have crossed presidential campaign paths for the first time in Selma, Alabama.

    The top contenders for the Democratic nomination were speaking at a day-long series of events to mark a 1965 civil rights march in the southern US state.

    Their attendance is being seen as an attempt to attract crucial black votes.

    Polls show Mr Obama has been gaining ground among black voters over Mrs Clinton who is still the front-runner.

    Forty-two years ago, the small town of Selma, Alabama, was the scene of a black civil rights march attacked by state troopers and police on what became known as Bloody Sunday.

    'Shoulders of giants'

    Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton each spoke before packed congregations in neighbouring churches, almost simultaneously.

    "I stand on the shoulders of giants," Mr Obama said at the AME church used as a headquarters before the march by the civil rights leader the Rev Martin Luther King.

    "I'm here because somebody marched for freedom. I'm here because you all sacrificed for me," he said.

    Mrs Clinton, speaking at a packed Baptist church, recalled the courage of those who marched in 1965, saying America still faced injustice and that "we have a march to finish".

    "Our future matters. And it is up to us to take it back. Put it into our hands and start marching toward a better tomorrow," she said.

    Mrs Clinton was also joined by her husband and former President Bill Clinton.

    The BBC's James Westhead in Washington says this is the first time she has used his immense popularity among African-Americans to give her a boost on the campaign trail.

    The events show both candidates are trying to associate themselves with the civil rights legacy in an increasingly fierce tussle for the democratic nomination, our correspondent says.

    US army secretary quits over row

    Reporters gather at the premises of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. File photo

    US Army Secretary Francis Harvey has resigned amid a row over the treatment of wounded US soldiers.

    The move follows critical reports in the US media about the care of troops wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq at Washington's Walter Reed hospital.

    The Washington Post said last week that some of the soldiers lived in buildings infested with rodents and cockroaches.

    Mr Harvey was appointed in November 2004 and was responsible for the efficient functioning of the US army.

    Mr Harvey's resignation was announced by Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

    It came a day after the head of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Maj Gen George Weightman, was fired.

    "I am disappointed that some in the army have not adequately appreciated the seriousness of the situation pertaining to outpatient care at Walter Reed," Mr Gates said.

    "Some have shown too much defensiveness and have not shown enough focus on digging into and addressing the problems," he added.

    The Washington Post newspaper claimed in a series of articles that conditions at Walter Reed, the most famous veterans' hospital in the US, were poor.

    Outpatients lived in rat-infested rooms and bureaucracy got in the way of those trying to provide help to often badly injured soldiers, the articles reported.

    The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says that America's wounded veterans are regarded by most people in the country as truly heroic, so the fall-out has been considerable.

    Mr Gates said that he was "concerned that some do not properly understand the need to communicate to the wounded and their families that we have no higher priority than their care".

    "Our wounded soldiers and their families have sacrificed much and they deserve the best we can offer," he added.

    Presidential address

    According to our correspondent, the White House will hope that this trenchant intervention from Mr Gates will protect the president from political damage.

    President George W Bush has been forced to address the issue in his weekly radio address - to be broadcast on Saturday - acknowledging that the treatment of the veterans has not been good enough.

    "This is unacceptable to me, it is unacceptable to our country and it's not going to continue," he said, in an excerpt released by the White House.

    He has announced that a cross-party commission will be formed to oversee health care for veterans.

    Nonetheless, for many Americans it is a shock to discover that the men and women they care so deeply about have been so badly let down, our correspondent adds.

    U.S. Files Terror Charges Against Aussie

    A detainee, name, nationality, and facial identification not permitted, holds onto a fence as a U.S. military guard walks past, within the grounds of the maximum security prison at Camp 5

    (AP) The Bush administration filed charges Thursday against an Australian captured in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and held ever since without trial, the first terror-war suspect to face prosecution under a new system of military tribunals.

    David Hicks, a 31-year old former kangaroo skinner now held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, was charged with providing material support for terrorism and could face life imprisonment if convicted. Court challenges are certain before any trial.

    Hicks' case, which has attracted broad attention in the U.S. and overseas, could well become the one that opponents of the new military tribunal system use to challenge the system at the Supreme Court. Opponents of the military commissions say they are illegal because they do not afford many legal rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

    "It all seems to be an intermingling of politics and pressure," said Jumana Musa, advocacy director for Amnesty International. "But none of it screams to me to be in the interest of justice."

    Proponents of the new system say they expect the federal courts to rule in favor of the military commissions.

    "I trust the system to judge Mr. Hicks fairly," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a co-sponsor of the commissions legislation. "It's long overdue this case be brought forward."

    Meanwhile, Australia, a steadfast U.S. ally in the war on terror, has been pressuring the Bush administration to send Hicks back to his native country. But that apparently wouldn't come until after a trial, at Guantanamo.

    Last month, Sandra Hodgkinson, the State Department's deputy director for war crimes issues, told reporters that "it's certainly believed that Mr. Hicks may be able to carry out his incarceration, after the appeals process is complete, in Australia."

    President Bush and Congress established the new legal system last fall. Lawmakers set up the tribunals after the Supreme Court ruled an older version established by Bush was unconstitutional because it lacked Congress' blessing and violated international agreements.

    "This is an important milestone for military commissions," said Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

    There are an estimated 385 detainees remaining at the Guantanamo prison in Cuba. None of the men held there on suspicion of links to al Qaeda or the Taliban has ever gone to trial.

    Hicks was among 10 detainees who had been charged with crimes under the earlier law that the court struck down. Then, he had been charged with conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy.

    Another of the 10 was Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen, whose case ended up being the one the Supreme Court used to throw out the previous tribunal system.

    According to Pentagon documents, Hicks went to Afghanistan in January 2001 to attend al Qaeda terrorist training camps. He also traveled to the southern city of Kandahar, the former Taliban stronghold, and stayed in an al Qaeda guest house where he met "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and other al Qaeda associates.

    The Pentagon says that for about a year starting around December 2000, Hicks provided "support or resources to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out, an act of terrorism" and that he "knew or intended" for the support to be used for terrorism.

    Last month, military prosecutors recommended that Hicks be charged with attempted murder for fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan and with providing support for terrorism.

    On Thursday, Susan Crawford, the head of the military commissions, formally charged Hicks only with providing material support for terrorism.

    The Pentagon announcement did not explain why the attempted murder charge was dropped. But a package of talking points written for officials to answer questions on the announcement suggested Crawford didn't believe the evidence warranted it.

    Hicks' Pentagon-appointed lawyer, Marine Corps Maj. Michael Mori, said in Australia that the charge of providing support for terrorism was a fabrication that had not previously existed under the laws of war, and he said Australian officials should not accept it.

    "The Australians should demand that David be treated the same as an American citizen and that retrospective legislation should not be applied to him and he should be returned," Mori told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

    The military eventually hopes to charge 60 to 80 of the Guantanamo detainees. Once formal charges are filed, a timetable requires preliminary hearings within 30 days and the start of a jury trial within 120 days at Guantanamo.

    Australian Prime Minister John Howard discussed Hicks' case with Vice President Dick Cheney when Cheney visited Australia last month. Under growing public pressure and with elections due later this year, Howard has begun pushing U.S. officials to deal with Hicks' case more quickly.

    US accused on 'missing' prisoners

    Suspected CIA plane

    Thirty eight people believed to have been held in secret CIA prisons - or black sites - are missing, according to a report by a US human rights group.

    The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report also details allegations of torture by a terror suspect who was held in secret custody for more than two years.

    The group has asked US President George W Bush to reveal the location of these detainees and close all US black sites.

    Last year Mr Bush said the prisons had all closed and had not used torture.

    'Missing' prisoners

    In a televised address in September, Mr Bush admitted that 14 detainees had been held at secret CIA prisons that used interrogation methods that were "tough" but "lawful and necessary".

    "The United States does not torture," Mr Bush said at the time. "It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorised it - and I will not authorise it."

    He said the prisoners had since been transferred to the US military camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the CIA was not holding any more terror suspects.

    But in a report published on Tuesday, HRW has named another 38 people who were believed to have been held in secret CIA prisons, who are now missing.

    Quoting US intelligence officials, The Washington Post says more than 60 people have been held in the prisons since 2001.

    'Beaten and burned'

    The group has called on the US to reveal the location of all detainees held by the CIA since 2001 and end its "illegal" secret detention and interrogation programmes.

    Palestinian Islamic extremist Marwan al-Jabour told HRW he saw or spoke to a number of those named in the report while he was held by the CIA between 2004 and 2006.

    Mr Jabour, who was arrested in Lahore, Pakistan in May 2004, also detailed torture tactics he says were used against him while he was in US custody.

    He says at various periods during his 28-month detention Pakistani authorities kept him naked and chained to a ceiling. He says he was beaten, burned and handcuffed in stress positions.

    During this time he was also reportedly interrogated by US agents for hours on end, but Mr Jabour says he was only tortured when the Americans were not around.

    Mr Jabour admits that in 1998 he trained in Afghanistan in the hope of fighting in Chechnya. He also says he helped Arab militants who had fled Afghanistan for Pakistan in 2003, but he denies any links to al-Qaeda or terror activities.

    EU threat

    Meanwhile, the US has warned the European Union that ongoing inquiries into secret CIA flights within Europe linked to the black sites are threatening intelligence ties between Europe and the US.

    The investigations "have not been helpful with respect to necessary co-operation between the United States and Europe," John Bellinger, legal adviser to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said.

    Mr Bellinger also labelled a European Parliament report into the flights, released earlier this month, as "unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair".

    Taliban Claims Cheney Was Target Of Attack

    (CBS/AP) A suicide bomber attacked the entrance to the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney, killing up to 23 people and wounding 20.

    Cheney was unhurt in the attack, which was claimed by the Taliban and was the closest that militants have come to a top U.S. official visiting Afghanistan. At least one U.S. soldier, an American contractor and a South Korean soldier were among the dead, NATO said.

    Cheney said the attackers were trying "to find ways to question the authority of the central government." The Taliban said Cheney was the target.

    About two hours after the blast, Cheney left on a military flight for Kabul to meet with President Hamid Karzai and other officials, then left Afghanistan.

    The vice president had spent the night at the sprawling Bagram Air Base, ate breakfast with the troops and met with Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

    He was preparing to leave for a meeting with Karzai when the suicide bomber struck about 10 a.m., sending up a plume of smoke visible by reporters accompanying him. U.S. military officials declared a "red alert" at the base.

    "I heard a loud boom," Cheney told reporters. "The Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate."

    He said he was moved "for a brief period of time" to a bomb shelter on the base near his quarters. "As the situation settled down and they had a better sense of what was going on, I went back to my room," Cheney added.

    Asked if the Taliban were trying to send a message with the attack, Cheney said: "I think they clearly try to find ways to question the authority of the central government."

    "Striking at Bagram with a suicide bomber, I suppose, is one way to do that," he said. "But it shouldn't affect our behavior at all."

    Maj. William Mitchell said it did not appear the explosion was intended as a threat to Cheney. "He wasn't near the site of the explosion," Mitchell said. "He was safely within the base at the time of the explosion."

    CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports large numbers of Afghan civilians frequently gather at the gates to Bagram in the morning, hoping to get work for the day.

    There were conflicting reports on the death toll. Karzai's office said 23 people were killed, including 20 Afghan workers at the base. Another 20 people were injured, it said.

    NATO's International Security Assistance Force said initial reports were that three people were killed, including a U.S. soldier, an American contractor and a South Korean soldier. U.S. officials indicated they planned to update that death toll.

    Associated Press reporters at the scene saw 12 bodies being carried in black body bags and wooden coffins from the base entrance into a market area where hundreds of Afghans had gathered to mourn.

    Friends and relatives cried and moaned as they took the bodies away from the base. Two men came to the base entrance crying and wringing their hands, one of them screaming, "My brother!"

    A message posted on a Web site used by militants said "a mujahid ... carried out a suicide attack in front of the second gate of the Bagram Air Base. ... The target was Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney."

    A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said Cheney was the target of the attack, which Ahmadi said was carried out by an Afghan called Mullah Abdul Rahim, of Logar province.

    "We knew that Dick Cheney would be staying inside the base," Ahmadi told AP by telephone from an undisclosed location. "The attacker was trying to reach Cheney."

    Mitchell noted that Cheney's overnight stay occurred only after a meeting with Karzai on Monday was canceled because of bad weather.

    "I think it's a far-fetched allegation," he said, referring to the Taliban claim. "The vice president wasn't even supposed to be here overnight, so this would have been a surprise to everybody."

    Gore's Oscar Success Fuels '08 Speculation

    Former Vice President Al Gore's triumph at the Oscars is already stoking activists' pleas for him to make a dramatic late entry into the fractious presidential race, and some key strategists insist he could announce as late as September or October and still win the nomination.

    "Honestly, this was the inaugural parade we all envisioned," said Donna Brazile, his former campaign manager. "Gore's political stock is hot right now. I don't know if I would cash in now with so many players still on stage. There's no reason to force him to declare tomorrow."

    Indeed, Brazile said the former vice president could wait as late as the time states begin requiring delegate slates and statements of candidacy, since he could raise money quickly and much of the campaigns' budgets are devoted to a long nominating process he would avoid. "This was one of those rare moments, similar to the civil rights movement, when you experience the ground shifting," she said. "Perhaps it's not a movement for a presidential run, but a moment for the debate to start for real change on how we live on Planet Earth."

    Friends who talk regularly with Gore say that he believes what he tells the press ・that he's not planning to run for president. Backstage on Sunday night, he repeated his mantra: "I do not have plans to become a candidate for office again." No draft movement is being authorized or encouraged, and there are no internal discussions of a campaign, the friends insist. But they say he has deliberately not closed the door. It just doesn't feel right to him ・and he's only 58.

    So the crescendo will rise. Brazile, now the founder and managing director of Brazile and Associates, is neutral in the race but says she would work for Gore if he declared. She acknowledges that after the near miss of 2000, she was among those who said "hell, no" about a 2004 bid. But she feels very differently now.

    "He could come in at the end of the day as a candidate who can truly unite his party as well as his country," Brazile said. "He can help repair our country's image abroad. He's someone who can go toe-to-toe with world leaders and doesn't need a crash course in diplomacy." She remembers back in the '80s when Gore was in Congress and used to often cite a quote from Gandhi, "'Be the change you want to see in the world.'" Brazile said: "I believe he has become that quote.・

    "An Inconvenient Truth" was based on Gore's traveling global warming show as he told audiences about what he calls a "planetary emergency." He threw himself into promoting the film, traveling to film festivals around the world and telling audiences he would take it "door-to-door" if necessary." The movie includes his stock laugh line: "I'm Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States of America."

    Michael Feldman, who served in the Clinton-Gore White House for eight years and was a senior adviser and traveling chief of staff to the vice president, said the Oscar means that "more people are going to see the movie and more people are going to get information about the issue of global warming, which will help build the collective political will to get something done on the issue."

    Feldman, a founding partner of the Glover Park Group, said Gore's stroll down the red carpet "must have seemed like a little bit of an out-of-body experience to him," but then much of the last year has been that way. "He still sees his job as trying to help create a better political climate for action on this issue," Feldman said.

    Gore is the chair of the Alliance for Climate Protection, funded in part by proceeds he has donated from "An Inconvenient Truth." Others on the group's governing council include Theodore Roosevelt IV, Carol M. Browner, and Brent Scowcroft.

    The former vice president will be in the spotlight again with three major events in the next five months:

    ・On March 21, he'll star at global warming hearings in both the House and Senate, testifying before a committee he once served on. He will be the sole witness before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. On the House side, he will testify at a Joint Subcommittee Hearing on Climate Change, held by the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, and the Science and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.

    ・A new book by Gore, "The Assault on Reason: How the Politics of Fear, Secrecy, and Blind Faith Subvert Wise Decision Making, Degrade Our Democracy, and Put Our Country and Our World in Peril," is due out in May.

    ・On July 7 (7.7.07), he will be among the luminaries heading a 24-hour "Save Our Selves" (SOS) concert marathon across all seven continents. The "Live Earth" concert will bring together more than 100 of the world's top musical acts and is designed to reach more than 2 billion people through attendance and broadcasts. SOS ・The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis was founded by Kevin Wall, who won an Emmy as worldwide executive producer of the Live 8 concert marathon.

    At 10:48 p.m. Sunday, when the nominees for "best documentary feature" were announced on the 79th annual Academy Awards broadcast on ABC, the clip from an "An Inconvenient Truth" showed a professorial Gore intoning: "Global warming creates more evaporation off the oceans. It seeds the clouds. But it sucks moisture out of the soil."

    After Davis Guggenheim, the director, was announced as the winner, the camera in the audience showed him gesturing madly for Gore and the rest of the team to walk up with him. As they walked to the stage, the announcer said: "Davis Guggenheim and the cast were scheduled to shoot in New Orleans the night before Hurricane Katrina hit ・an event that brought the threat and the impact of global warming."

    Cheney renews US warning on Iran

    John Howard (left) and Dick Cheney

    US Vice-President Dick Cheney has renewed a warning that the use of force could be an option if Iran continues to defy the West over uranium enrichment.

    Mr Cheney, speaking in Australia, said diplomacy was the preferred course.

    But in a newspaper interview he backed US Senator John McCain's view that the only thing worse than a military clash would be an Iran with nuclear arms.

    Iran insists that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.

    Mr Cheney, a noted hawk in the Bush administration, endorsed Mr McCain's stance in an interview with The Australian daily newspaper.

    And speaking at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, he also spoke of US concerns about Tehran's nuclear ambitions and warned that "all options are on the table" in terms of how the US would respond.

    "They have made some fairly inflammatory statements," he said. "They appear to be pursuing the development of nuclear weapons."

    Mr Cheney spoke of concern at Iran's "fairly aggressive" role in the Middle East, and its flouting of a UN deadline to stop uranium enrichment.

    Permanent UN Security Council members and Germany will meet on Monday to discuss further sanctions against Iran following its decision to ignore last Thursday's deadline.

    Resistance vow

    On Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran will defend its nuclear programme to the end, and must not show weakness "in front of the enemy".

    "The Iranian people are vigilant and will defend all their rights to the end," Iranian news agency Isna quoted Mr Ahmadinejad as saying, at a rally in northern Iran.

    "If we show weakness in front of the enemy the expectations will increase but if we stand against them, because of this resistance they will retreat."

    The IAEA concluded in a report on Thursday that Iran was expanding rather than halting its enrichment programme, defying a UN resolution of December 2006.

    Iran says the UN call for it to stop uranium enrichment is unacceptable as it has no legal basis.

    Tehran denies Western claims it is secretly trying to build nuclear arms, saying its nuclear programme is for purely peaceful, energy-producing purposes.

    While enriched uranium is used as fuel for nuclear reactors, highly enriched uranium can also be used to make nuclear bombs.

    Australia is a key member of the US-led coalition in Iraq, with about 1,400 troops in and around the country.

    Speaking after his meeting with Mr Cheney, Mr Howard warned of the possibility of Iran's influence in the Middle East region growing if coalition troops are pulled out of Iraq too soon.

    He told reporters that instability in Iraq resulting from an early coalition withdrawal could tip the regional power balance in Iran's favour, with disastrous consequences:

    "I think Iran would benefit enormously from that and that would be to many in the Middle East, not just the Israelis, that would be a nightmare scenario."

    Clinton, Obama Trade Barbs Over Donor

    (CBS/AP) The rival presidential campaigns of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama accused each other of nasty politics Wednesday over a Hollywood donor who once backed Bill Clinton but now supports Obama.

    Amid the Democrats' accusations in tit-for-tat news releases, Clinton tried to remain above the fray.

    "I'm just going to stay focused on my campaign and I'm going to run a positive campaign about the issues that affect the people in our country," she said in a brief interview with The Associated Press.

    The Clinton campaign sent out a testy news release after DreamWorks movie studio co-founder David Geffen, a fan of Obama, told The New York Times that Clinton was ambitious and polarizing.

    "CLINTON CAMP TO OBAMA: CUT TIES & RETURN CASH AFTER TOP BOOSTERS VICIOUS ATTACKS," screamed the headline of the news release.

    Geffen hosted a $1.3 million fundraiser for Obama on Tuesday.

    Hollywood's embrace of the Illinois senator didn't sit well with Clinton, according to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

    "Hillary loyalists have hissed at defecting donors to remember the good old days of jumping on the Lincoln Bedroom bed," Dowd wrote.

    "Hillary is livid that Obama's getting the first big fund-raiser here," she quoted a friend of Clinton as saying.

    Dowd sized up the situation thusly: "Who can pay attention to the Oscar battle between 'The Queen' and 'Dreamgirls' when you've got a political battle between a Queen and a Dreamboy?"

    The Clinton campaign used the comments to try to recast Obama into just another politician who preaches against nasty politics while his supporters practice it, reports CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger.

    The campaign argued that Geffen's words amounted to "slash and burn" politics.

    "By refusing to disavow the statement of his leading supporter in California, Senator Obama has called into question whether or not he really believes his own rhetoric," Howard Wolfson, Clinton痴 communications director, told CBS News.

    Geffen was once a top donor to President Clinton. But he said in the interview that Clinton is "a reckless guy," and he doesn't think Sen. Clinton can bring the country together during a time of war, no matter how smart or ambitious she is.

    The senator was asked about Geffen's comments as she appeared in front of a Democratic candidates' forum in Nevada. "I believe Bill Clinton was a good president, and I'm very proud of the record of his two terms," she said to raucous applause from the partisan audience.

    The Obama campaign declined to denounce Geffen or give back any money and issued its own statement in response, criticizing Clinton.

    "We aren't going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters," Obama communications director Robert Gibbs said in a statement. "It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when he was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln Bedroom."

    Gibbs added another criticism of Clinton.

    "It is also ironic that Sen. Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina state Sen. Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because 'he's black,・ Gibbs' statement said.

    Ford drew widespread criticism for his comment and later apologized. The Clinton campaign said it disagreed with Ford, but the senator has embraced his support.

    Gibbs' statement brought another response from the Clinton camp.

    "How can Senator Obama denounce the politics of slash and burn yesterday while his own campaign is espousing the politics of trash today?" Wolfson asked in a news release.

    Geffen issued a two-sentence statement in which he corrected Wolfson's characterization of him as Obama's finance director. Geffen has no official role with the campaign, other than hosting one of its fundraisers. Geffen added that he was accurately quoted in the Times and said the comments "reflect solely my personal beliefs regarding the Clintons."

    Fundraising is critical to the candidates, underscored by an appeal from former President Clinton to raise $1 million in netroots contributions over the next week for his wife's candidacy.

    "All across the country, Hillary is campaigning with the signature wisdom, grace, and humor that make her a great candidate," he said in the letter. "I know that if we all work hard enough, those same traits will make her an even better president."

    The former president, who is pictured on the letter with his arms wrapped lovingly around his wife, also warns that "with Republicans using everything in their arsenal to stop her campaign, Hillary is going to need every one of us to do everything that we can for her."

    US 'Iran attack plans' revealed

    US aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis (file picture)

    US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure, the BBC has learned.

    It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.

    The US insists it is not planning to attack, and is trying to persuade Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.

    The UN has urged Iran to stop the programme or face economic sanctions.

    But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran.

    That list includes Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Facilities at Isfahan, Arak and Bushehr are also on the target list, the sources say.

    Two triggers

    BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon - which it denies.

    Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.

    Long range B2 stealth bombers would drop so-called "bunker-busting" bombs in an effort to penetrate the Natanz site, which is buried some 25m (27 yards) underground.

    The BBC's Tehran correspondent France Harrison says the news that there are now two possible triggers for an attack is a concern to Iranians.

    Authorities insist there is no cause for alarm but ordinary people are now becoming a little worried, she says.


    Earlier this month US officials said they had evidence Iran was providing weapons to Iraqi Shia militias. At the time, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the accusations were "excuses to prolong the stay" of US forces in Iraq.

    Middle East analysts have recently voiced their fears of catastrophic consequences for any such US attack on Iran.

    Britain's previous ambassador to Tehran, Sir Richard Dalton, told the BBC it would backfire badly by probably encouraging the Iranian government to develop a nuclear weapon in the long term.

    Last year Iran resumed uranium enrichment - a process that can make fuel for power stations or, if greatly enriched, material for a nuclear bomb.

    Tehran insists its programme is for civil use only, but Western countries suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons.

    The UN Security Council has called on Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium by 21 February.

    If it does not, and if the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms this, the resolution says that further economic sanctions will be considered.

    Biden: We'll Change 2002 War Authorization

    Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Dick Lugar, Face The Nation

    (CBS) With Democratic efforts to pass a Senate resolution opposing President Bush's troop "surge" stalled, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman said he will try to rework the 2002 measure that authorized the use of force against Saddam Hussein. But, the committee's ranking Republican doubted that the idea would pass the Senate and, if it did, was sure that the president would veto it.

    While the majority party in the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution rebuking the president's Iraq strategy, Senate Democrats fell four votes short of pushing a similar measure forward in a rare Saturday session.

    Appearing on Face the Nation the next day, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, proposed his alternate route to stopping Mr. Bush from sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

    "I've been working with some of my colleagues to try to convince them that's the way to go ・to repeal and restate the president's authority," Biden told Bob Schieffer. "Make it clear that the purpose that he has troops in there is to in fact protect against al Qaeda gaining chunks of territory, training the Iraqi forces, force protection and for our forces. It's not to get in the midst of a civil war."

    Also appearing on Face the Nation,Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said that Biden's proposal would never get enough support in the Senate. Even if the majority could pass it, he said, the president would veto it and the veto could not be overturned.

    Biden, who is in the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said he was confident that his proposal would pass where the others had failed.

    "I predict to you you're going to see pressure mount," Biden said, "and it's going to be significant."

    Lugar agreed that public pressure was influencing the Congress' votes on the war, but he said none of the current proposals would make it through both houses and to the president. He said the nonbinding resolutions are being proposed to make the President consider to the opposition.

    "I think the president is paying attention," Lugar said, suggesting that the next move would be a true bi-partisan search for solutions.

    "I think there've been some fledgling efforts to see whether a group might be formed in a bipartisan way ・couple of them haven't worked out," Lugar said. "But for example, perhaps the president's situation is improved if he calls on Senator Biden and Senator Levin, Senator McCain, Speaker Pelosi, for example, and says, you know, 'We are in a war. We're in a situation of rather fractured political circumstances right now, and we need to think through this situation.'"

    One of the most outspoken critics of the war, Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., another, different approach for Congress to control the president's war plans. He described a series of provisions that would require the Pentagon to meet certain standards for training and equipping the troops, and for making sure they have enough time at home between deployments.

    "I wouldn't favor it," Lugar said. "But I would just say again that it would not be passed by two Houses and signed by the president. And, once again, it's a debating tool, which makes the point."

    Biden said that Murtha is trying to save the Army, not just stop the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

    "You cannot keep extending these people," Biden said. "You cannot keep doing what you're doing here. You cannot be sending them back without the proper equipment."

    Meanwhile, the Bush administration has said that Iran is shipping sophisticated weapons to Iraq to help Shiite militias. The increasingly hostile tone the White House is using against Iran has led to some worries that the U.S. might end up in another war.

    "I don't think it's going anywhere, and my hope is that it would not," Lugar said. "I would hope very strongly that the diplomatic course is followed ・that Europeans help some more ・but clearly, we have got to go the diplomatic route."

    Biden said the president is trying to regain credibility in the yes of the public.

    "It's repackaged," Biden said. "Two years ago, I was briefed on this, a year ago I was briefed by General Chiarelli on these shape charges and how they're different."

    US House rejects Bush Iraq plan

    US soldiers in Iraq

    The US House of Representatives has voted in favour of a resolution criticising President George W Bush's decision to send extra troops to Iraq.

    Seventeen of his Republican Party joined the Democrats in passing the non-binding motion 246 to 182.

    The vote follows days of fierce debate, during which the Democrats have made it clear that more decisive steps to limit Mr Bush's war policy could follow.

    The Senate is due to vote on Saturday on whether to debate the troop plan.

    Previous Senate attempts to debate the anti-troop surge resolution have been met with delaying tactics from Republican members.

    If senators do vote to consider the resolution in their unusual Saturday session, Mr Bush faces the possibility that both chambers of Congress will repudiate his Iraq policy within two days, says the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington.

    Although both the Congressional resolutions are non-binding, the president needs the legislators to support his $93bn (」48bn) emergency troop funding measure.

    'Tragic goal'

    The House vote brought to a close the first full debate there since the Democrats took control of Congress in November.

    Written by the Democrats, the resolution states that the House "will continue to support and protect" US soldiers in Iraq but that it "disapproves" of the 21,500-strong troop increase.

    Nancy Pelosi About 400 of 434 representatives in the House spoke during four days of debate.

    Speaking after the vote, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it would send an unmistakable signal to the White House.

    "The president's escalation plan repeats past mistakes. The stakes in Iraq are too high to recycle proposals that have little prospect for success.

    "The bipartisan resolution today may be non-binding. But it will send a strong message to the president - we here in Congress are committed to protecting and supporting our troops."

    House Minority Leader John Boehner had urged lawmakers to vote against the motion, saying it was "the first step towards a tragic, unthinkable goal".

    "We face a sophisticated, determined enemy who wants to annihilate our way of life," he said.

    "We have a duty to stand and fight against those that seek to destroy America and the freedom that defines us."

    'No blank cheques'

    Mr Bush, who hopes the "surge" will restore stability in Iraq, said on Thursday that he expected Congress to live up to its promise to support the nation's troops.

    "Republicans and Democrats have a responsibility to give our troops the resources they need," he said.

    White House officials said Mr Bush had been too busy to watch Friday's vote.

    After it was passed, the president pointed out that it was non-binding and his spokesman warned the Democrats not to try to block war spending.

    Speaking during the debate, Ms Pelosi said there should be "no more blank cheques".

    Fellow Democrat John Murtha, who heads a House panel that oversees military spending, is drawing up legislation that would set strict conditions on training and rest periods for soldiers, making it almost impossible for Mr Bush to deploy increased numbers of troops.

    Bush maintains pressure on Iran

    George W Bush addresses the media at his first press conference of 2007

    President Bush has insisted a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guards is linked to some attacks on US troops in Iraq.

    The US was "certain", he said, that the force was providing a weapon known as an EFP, which the US says has been used in particularly deadly attacks.

    But he said he did not know who was directing the force, and denied laying the groundwork for an attack on Iran.

    Mr Bush also defended his strategy for securing Iraq a day after the House of Representatives began debating it.

    He admitted that it would take time to establish security in Baghdad, and said that violence would continue, but said it was vital to US security to succeed in Iraq.

    "If we fail there, the enemy will follow us here. I firmly believe that," he said.

    The US House of Representatives on Tuesday began debate on a resolution opposing the president's plan.

    The non-binding resolution is expected to pass easily, with as many as several dozen members of Mr Bush's Republican party joining the Democratic majority.

    Government orders?

    Mr Bush appeared to be trying to steer a fine line on Iran.

    Unnamed US officials in Baghdad said at the weekend that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government were supplying weapons to Shia militants in Iraq.

    But top uniformed personnel - including the highest-ranking US military officer, General Peter Pace - have refused to confirm that accusation in recent days.

    Mr Bush said Iran's Quds Force - a branch of the Revolutionary Guards charged with exporting the Iranian revolution - was the source of the weapons.

    But he said he did not know who was giving them their orders.

    "I don't think we know who picked up the phone and said to the Quds Force: 'Go do this.'"

    The Revolutionary Guards report to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    Mr Bush denied he was attempting to provoke Iran, insisting he was only seeking to protect US troops.

    He also appeared to suggest there was no point in talking directly to Iran at the present time.

    "If I thought we could achieve success, I would sit down with Iran," he said.

    But he insisted Tehran must "have a verifiable suspension" of its alleged nuclear weapons programme before the US would engage in direct talks.

    Sen. Kerry blasts 'escalation of misguided war'

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. John Kerry on Saturday blamed Republicans for squelching Senate debate on the Iraq war and warned that President Bush's plan for more troops in Iraq is a mistake.

    "Another 21,000 troops sent into Iraq, with no visible end or strategy, ignores the best advice from our own generals and isn't the best way to keep faith with the courage and commitment of our soldiers," the Massachusetts Democrat said in his party's weekly radio address.

    Kerry branded Bush's proposal for additional forces as "nothing more than the escalation of a misguided war."

    The Pentagon is in the midst of implementing Bush's order to raise troop levels by 21,500, part of a plan to help quell sectarian violence in Baghdad.

    The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, who has said he will not run for the White House in 2008, criticized Republicans for blocking Senate debate on Iraq.

    The GOP stalled a Senate resolution backed by Democrats and several Republicans that expresses dissatisfaction with Bush's call for additional troops and sets benchmarks for the Iraq government.

    The measure fell 11 votes short of the 60 required to move the debate forward.

    "If there was a straight up-or-down, yes-or-no vote this week on whether the United States should keep up an indefinite presence in Iraq, it would be voted down," Kerry said.

    The senator called on Congress to take stronger action to end the war.

    "The Congress should tell President Bush to end this open-ended commitment of American troops," Kerry said. "The United States must get tough with Iraqi politicians -- pressure them to meet tough benchmarks. ... Congress must push this administration to find not just a new way forward in Iraq, but the right way forward."

    Former Playmate Smith dies at 39

    Anna Nicole Smith in a Feb 2006 file photo

    The flamboyant former model Anna Nicole Smith has died near Miami, Florida at the age of 39, her lawyer has said.

    Smith, a former Playboy bunny, married Texas oil billionaire J Howard Marshall II in 1994 when she was 26 and he was 89. He died a year later.

    She spent years in court fighting his son for a share of his estate, and won a victory at the Supreme Court in 2006.

    She was found unconscious in a hotel room and could not be resuscitated. No cause of death has been announced.

    US media have reported that an autopsy will be conducted on Friday.

    One of Smith's lawyers told Reuters news agency her husband Howard K Stern was "speechless and grieving".

    Family tragedy

    Her son Daniel, the product of a short-lived youthful marriage, died at the age of 20 in September, just days after Smith's daughter was born.

    The baby girl is the subject of a paternity suit, with Smith's former boyfriend Larry Birkhead saying he is the father of the child.

    He sued Smith in Oct 2006, shortly after the baby was born.

    Smith said Mr Stern, who is also her lawyer, was the father of the child.

    A former topless dancer, Smith modelled for Guess Jeans and Playboy before marrying Marshall.

    She also appeared in films including one of the Naked Gun movies.

    She had her own reality TV show, The Anna Nicole Smith show, from 2002 to 2004.

    Smith was born Vicki Lynn Hogan in Mexia, Texas, on 28 Nov 1967.

    Republicans block Iraq war debate

    A US soldier inside an armoured vehicle in Baghdad (file photo)

    A resolution opposing President George W Bush's decision to send extra troops to Iraq has failed to advance in the US Senate, dealing a blow to war critics.

    The measure needed 60 votes before the 100-member Senate could begin debate, but it got 49, with 47 voting against.

    Although non-binding, it was the first serious effort in Congress to confront the White House over the war in Iraq.

    Since the US-led invasion in 2003, more than 3,000 US troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed.

    The resolution opposed Mr Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq, the majority of them to violence-hit Baghdad in an effort to end sectarian clashes.

    It called on the White House to examine all other possibilities. Mr Bush has said it is something he has already done.

    It was the first time Democrats had scheduled a fully-fledged debate on the Iraq war since they won control of Congress in last year's mid-term elections.

    'Uncertain fate'

    The text of the bipartisan, non-binding resolution was proposed by senior Republican John Warner and it is unclear what will happen to the measure now.

    Groups from the left and the right proposed amendments up to the last minute, as senators tried to balance criticism of the Bush administration with loyalty to US troops in Iraq.

    Several Republicans supported the resolution, but there were not enough to block the efforts of White House loyalists in the Senate to prevent it from coming to a vote.

    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell described the vote as "a bump in the road" and added that GOP lawmakers "welcome the debate and are happy to have it".

    Some Democrats said they would oppose the resolution because it did not go far enough.

    Earlier, Mr Bush sent his budget plan to the Democrat-controlled Congress for approval, requesting extra funding for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Almost $700bn (」357bn) is earmarked for new military spending.

    The Democratic majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, said that the budget, which also proposes large health care cuts, was not in tune with the needs of ordinary Americans.

    Mary Cheney: Baby Is Not A "Prop"

    (AP) The decision to become pregnant and raise a child with her female partner was not political, Mary Cheney, a daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, told a Barnard College audience.

    "This is a baby," Cheney said Wednesday at a forum sponsored by Glamour magazine. "This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue. It is my child."

    Cheney, 37, announced in December that she and her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, were starting a family. She did not say how the child was conceived. The baby is due in the spring and will be the vice president's sixth grandchild.

    Dick Cheney became testy last week when CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked him what he thought of conservatives who are critical of his daughter's pregnancy. Cheney told Blitzer he was "over the line."

    In a brief interview with The New York Times after Wednesday's panel, Mary Cheney said she agreed that Blitzer had crossed a line. "He was trying to get a rise out of my father," she said.

    Glamour editor Cindi Leive asked Cheney during the panel discussion if she had anything to say to conservatives such as James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, who have criticized her pregnancy, asserting that children should be raised by heterosexual married couples.

    She responded, "Every piece of remotely responsible research that has been done in the last 20 years on this issue has shown there is no difference between children who are raised by same-sex parents and children who are raised by opposite-sex parents. What matters is that children are being raised in a stable, loving environment."

    Cheney was an aide to her father during the 2004 campaign and now is vice president for consumer advocacy at AOL.

    She is the author of "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life," published last year.

    Mass US protest against Iraq war

    Jane Fonda at the rally

    Tens of thousands of protesters have demonstrated in Washington to demand the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

    The rally comes days before Congress is to discuss President George W Bush's new strategy for Iraq - including the despatch of 21,500 additional troops.

    The protesters, chanting "Bring the troops home", were joined by Vietnam War-era protester, actress Jane Fonda.

    Violence continued in Iraq on Saturday, with at least 15 killed in a suicide bomb attack in a Baghdad market.

    The BBC's James Coomarasamy in Washington says this anti-war rally at the foot of the US Capitol was a marked shift away from the White House and on to Congress.

    The protesters want Congress, now run by the Democrats, to block funding for the president's new strategy, our correspondent says.


    Jane Fonda, the Hollywood actress who angered many Americans by visiting Hanoi in 1972 during the Vietnam War, told the crowd: "I haven't spoken at an anti-war rally for 34 years. But silence is no longer an option."

    She added: "I'm so sad that we still have to do this, that we did not learn the lessons from the Vietnam War."

    Fonda was joined by fellow actors Sean Penn and Tim Robbins.

    Robbins said: "What we need is courage, courage and conviction and we need people to represent the voice of the American people, a very clear voice last November, a voice that said: 'We're done with this war'."

    The Democrats took control of both Houses in November's mid-term election, sparking Mr Bush's decision to form a new strategy for Iraq.

    But our correspondent says Congress has so far balked at using the power of funding and only a handful of staunch anti-war Congressmen were present at the rally.

    Although nearly all Democrats and a growing numbers of Republicans oppose the president's plans, he says, senators have not been able to agree yet on a single non-binding resolution expressing their concerns.

    At the rally a coffin covered with a US flag and a pair of military boots was put on display.

    Organisers also filled a large bin with tags bearing the names of Iraqis who have died.

    More than a dozen veterans, anti-war activists, religious heads and actors addressed the crowd.

    A small counter-protest held up a Fonda doll with the sign "Jane Fonda American Traitor".

    Mr Bush reportedly reaffirmed his commitment to the troop increase in a phone call with Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki on Saturday.

    White House national security adviser spokesman Gordon Johndroe said: "Americans want to see a conclusion to the war in Iraq and the new strategy is designed to do just that."

    Violence continued in Iraq on Saturday:

    • At least 15 people were killed and 55 injured when twin suicide car bomb attacks struck a market in the mainly Shia New Baghdad district
    • Iraqi police said eight computer firm employees were kidnapped by men in police uniforms in central Baghdad
    • The US military said it had killed 14 suspected insurgents during an air strike on a building used as a hideout south of Baquba
    • The US military announced the death of seven more soldiers. Three were killed by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad on Saturday, two by roadside bombs in Diyala province on Friday and two by a bomb in east Baghdad on Thursday.

    Also on Saturday, Russia said it planned to question the US on its increasing military presence in the Middle East.

    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would seek an explanation during a visit to Washington next week.

    He also said it was his "deep conviction that Iran and Syria should not be isolated and must be involved in the settlement process".

    Bush: Give Iraq Plan "A Chance To Work"

    (CBS/AP) A politically weakened President Bush implored a skeptical Congress Tuesday night to embrace his unpopular plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq, saying it represents the best hope in a war America must not lose. "Give it a chance to work," he said.

    Facing a political showdown with Democrats and Republicans alike, Mr. Bush was unyielding on Iraq in his annual State of the Union address. He also sought to revive his troubled presidency with proposals to expand health insurance coverage and to slash gasoline consumption by 20 percent in a decade.

    Democrats ・and even some Republicans ・scoffed at his Iraq policy. Unmoved by Mr. Bush's appeal, Democrats said the House and Senate would vote on resolutions of disapproval of the troop buildup.

    "We need a new direction," said freshman Sen. Jim Webb, picked by the Democrats to deliver their response to the president's speech. "The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military," said Webb, a Vietnam veteran opposed to Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq.

    Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, also took issue with Mr. Bush. "I can't tell you what the path to success is, but it's not what the president has put on the table," he said.

    It was a night of political theater as the president went before the first Democratic-controlled Congress in a dozen years with his lowest approval ratings in polls.

    A CBS News poll conducted by Knowledge Networks immediately after the speech found that 82 percent of viewers generally approved of the president's proposals while 18 percent disapproved. However, 68 percent of viewers said Mr. Bush will not be able to accomplish his goals, while 32 percent think he will.

    Mr. Bush rallied some support for his Iraq plan among those who watched the speech, according to the poll. Before the State of the Union, 43 percent of them backed the plan, while 52 percent of them supported it after the speech.

    "This was a much better speech and a much better argument for his position than he made when he made the speech announcing the troop increase two weeks ago," CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer said. "But frankly, it comes down to this: If the president is right on this, this is going to be seen as a great profile in courage. If he's wrong, it will be seen as something much different."

    With debate over the Iraq war sending Republicans scurrying away from the president, Mr. Bush's job approval rating stood at a new low of 28 percent in the latest CBS News poll.

    Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, the first woman to lead the House, sat over Mr. Bush's shoulder, next to Vice President Dick Cheney. Reaching out to the Democrats, the president opened with a tribute to Pelosi and paused to shake her hand. He also asked for prayers for South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, hospitalized for more than a month after suffering a brain hemorrhage, and Republican Rep. Charlie Norwood of Georgia, who's suffering from cancer.

    The speech audience included up to a dozen House and Senate members who have announced they are running for president in 2008 or are considered possible contenders.

    Mr. Bush divided his speech between domestic and foreign issues, but the war was topic No. 1.

    Pelosi set the tone for Democrats. She sat silently and did not applaud as Mr. Bush warned of high stakes in Iraq and said American forces must not step back before Baghdad is secure.

    With Congress poised to deliver a stinging rebuke on his troop increase, the president made a personal plea to lawmakers.

    "I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you made," Mr. Bush said. "We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure."

    "Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work," he said. "And I ask you to support our troops in the field and those on their way."

    The president said the Iraq war had changed dramatically with the outbreak of sectarian warfare and reprisals.

    "This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in," he said. "Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk.

    "Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle," the president

    Clinton Officially Launches '08 Bid

    (CBS/AP) Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a former first lady turned political powerhouse, launched a trailblazing campaign for the White House on Saturday, intent on becoming the first female president. "I'm in, and I'm in to win," she said.

    In a videotaped message posted on her Web site, Clinton said she was eager to start a dialogue with voters about challenges she hoped to tackle as president ・affordable health care, deficit reduction and bringing the "right" end to the Iraq war.

    "I'm not just starting a campaign, though, I'm beginning a conversation with you, with America," she said. "Let's talk. Let's chat. The conversation in Washington has been just a little one-sided lately, don't you think?"

    Clinton's announcement, while widely anticipated, was nonetheless historic in a fast-developing campaign that has already seen the emergence of a formidable black contender, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

    In an instant, Clinton became the most credible female candidate ever to seek the presidency and the first presidential spouse to attempt to return to the White House in her own right. Her husband, Bill, served two terms as president from 1993 to 2001.

    "I am one of the millions of women who have waited all their lives to see the first woman sworn in as president of the United States ・and now we have our best opportunity to see that dream fulfilled," said Ellen Malcolm, president of EMILY's list, which raises money for Democratic women who run for office.

    With her immense star power, vast network of supporters and donors and seasoned team of political advisers, the 59-year-old Clinton long has topped every national poll of potential Democratic contenders.

    But since joining the field, Obama has secured the backing of a number of prominent fundraisers, including billionaire philanthropist George Soros, stepping up the pressure on Clinton to disclose her plans.

    Obama said in a statement soon after Clinton's entry, "I welcome and all the candidates, not as competitors, but as allies in the work of getting our country back on track."

    Last week ・after Obama's announcement but before her own ・Sen. Clinton told CBS News' Harry Smith that she was glad to have Obama in the race.

    "It's terrific that we're going to have a very vigorous primary, on both sides," Clinton said. "I'm looking forward to a spirited and substantive debate about issues, about goals, about aspirations, about experience, about the kinds of things voters would be interested in."

    Her controversial tenure as first lady left her a deeply polarizing figure among voters, leading many Democrats to doubt Clinton's viability in a general election.

    But Clinton's top political advisors say they've heard it all before, reports CBS News correspondent Joie Chen.

    "These are a lot of the same questions we faced in 1999, when she decided to run in a state she never lived in: Could she do it? Would she do it?" says Clinton senior advisor Howard Worlfson
    . "This is a woman who is no stranger to hard work. She's going to work her heart out and earn every vote."

    In a detailed statement posted on her Web site, Clinton sought to acknowledge and bat away such doubts.

    "I have never been afraid to stand up for what I believe in or to face down the Republican machine," she wrote. "After nearly $70 million spent against my campaigns in New York and two landslide wins, I can say I know how Washington Republicans think, how they operate and how to beat them."

    Recently, Clinton has clashed with many in her own party over the Iraq war.

    Clinton supported the 2002 resolution authorizing military intervention in Iraq. She has refused to recant her vote or call for a deadline for the removal of troops. She has announced her opposition to President Bush's troop increase in Iraq and has introduced legislation capping troop levels.

    "A woman candidate could find it easier to run in peacetime, rather than wartime, but Senator Clinton's tried to position herself as a serious person on national security," said Andrew Polsky, a presidential historian at Hunter College. "But that means she's staked out difficult position on the war that won't make it easy for her to get the Democratic nomination."

    With a $14 million campaign treasury, Clinton starts with an impressive fundraising advantage over the rest of the Democratic field. But Obama and others have started to secure fundraising commitments from New York, California and other deep-pocketed, Clinton-friendly areas.

    Her creation of a presidential exploratory committee, announced Saturday, allows her to raise money for the campaign; she already has lined up campaign staff.

    In tone and substance, Clinton's videotaped announcement recalled her first Senate race in New York in 2000, where she conducted a "listening tour" of the state's 62 counties before formally entering the contest.

    She promised a three-day series of Web chats with voters beginning Monday and prepared a campaign swing late this coming week through the early voting state of Iowa, while a visit to New Hampshire was in the works.

    On Sunday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was also set to enter the Democratic field; if elected, he would be the first Hispanic president.

    For the short term at least, the outsized candidacies of Clinton and Obama were expected to soak up the lion's share of attention.

    Obama, who launched his own presidential committee on Tuesday, praised Clinton as a friend and colleague.

    "I welcome her and all the candidates, not as competitors, but as allies in the work of getting our country back on track," he said in a statement.

    However, there are a lot of people who believe that Barack and Clinton could cancel each other out and make room for a second tier candidate such as John Edwards or Joe Biden, reports CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger.

    Campaigning in New Hampshire, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd did not comment specifically on Clinton's announcement, but said: "I'm not one for exploratory committees. You're in or you're not."

    Other Democratic contenders include former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack; Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the party's 2004 vice-presidential nominee. Delaware Sen. Joe Biden has said he will run and planned to formalize his intentions soon. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the party's 2004 standard bearer, is also contemplating another run.

    An influential player in her husband's political career in Arkansas, Hillary Clinton leapt to the national scene during the 1992 presidential campaign when husband and wife fought to survive the scandal over Gennifer Flowers' allegations of a lengthy affair with Bill Clinton when he was the state's governor.

    The Clintons appeared together on 60 Minutes to talk about their marriage ・Hillary Clinton's first famous "Stand by Your Man" moment.

    As first lady, Clinton headed up a disastrous first-term effort to overhaul the health care insurance system. There was more controversy as the couple battled allegations of impropriety over land deals and fundraising, missing records from her former Arkansas law firm and even her quick and hefty profits from an investment in cattle futures.

    There was no letup in the second term. The president found himself denying ・then admitting ・having a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. As he battled impeachment and possible removal from office, his wife's poll numbers rose.

    Her political career began to take shape in late 1998 when New York Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate seat he had held since 1976.

    The campaign trail was not always friendly. For almost every cheer, there was a shouted "Go home, Hillary!" and the emerging Republican theme that carpetbagger Clinton simply wanted to use New York as a launching pad for a later presidential run.

    Pelosi, White House Clash On Iraq

    (CBS/AP) In a critique the White House labeled as "poisonous," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi charged Friday that President Bush is wading too deeply into Iraq and said it should not be "an obligation of the American people in perpetuity."

    Pelosi said the president "has dug a hole so deep he can't even see the light on this. It's a tragedy. It's a stark blunder."

    White House spokeswoman Dana Perino retorted that Pelosi's comments were "poisonous," referring to the portion of Pelosi's statement that asserted Bush is rushing new troops there and betting that Congress won't cut off funds once they're in battle.

    "It's certainly not in keeping with the bipartisan spirit and civility that the Democrats pledged and that we looked forward to," Perino said. "Speaker Pelosi was arguing in essence that the president is putting young men and women in harm's way for tactical political reasons. She's questioning his motivations rather than questioning his policies."

    Perino also called it a mockery of national unity for Pelosi to suggest the conflict in Iraq is the president's war, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

    Democratic support is building around a resolution that would rebuff Mr. Bush's plans for more troops to Iraq, and more Republicans are looking for ways to sign on to the measure.

    As the White House scrambled to secure the dwindling backers of President Bush's war policies on Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon signaled that a simple wording change could persuade him to join the Democrats.

    Pelosi said House Democrats would back a Senate Democratic resolution declaring that the troop increase is "not in the national interest of the United States." Senate leaders expect to begin action on the nonbinding measure next Wednesday.

    Senate Democrats, backed by two Republicans, unveiled legislation Wednesday that criticized President Bush's decision. "It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Iraq," the nonbinding Senate measure states.

    Smith said his reluctance to back the resolution hinged on the word "escalating," which he said is a partisan term that unnecessarily inflames the issue. He said he is working with Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb. on a "constructive, nonpartisan resolution that expresses the opposition of the Senate to the surge."

    Pelosi's attack came as Lee Hamilton, the Democratic co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, told a House panel that the president's plan to deploy 21,500 additional troops to secure Baghdad and Anbar province would delay progress in training Iraqi security forces.

    The bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended removing U.S. combat troops by early next year and changing the U.S. mission from security to training and logistical support of Iraqi troops.

    "You delay the date of completion of the training mission. You delay the date of handing responsibility to the Iraqis. You delay the date of departure of U.S. troops" from the region, Hamilton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the buildup.

    President Bush and senior administration officials have been laboring to limit Republican defections.

    "He said, 'If you can help us out, I really appreciate your help,"' Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said after a White House meeting with Mr. Bush.

    Republican lawmakers in both houses are expected to draft alternative legislation, in part to give party members a measure to support rather than merely oppose what Democrats draft. Officials said one possibility under discussion is an alternative that supports the troop increase as long as the Iraqi government meets certain conditions.

    Administration supporters have expressed concerns the president faces a bipartisan repudiation of significant proportions.

    So far, Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine have said they back the resolution.

    Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., echoed Smith's opposition to the troop increase but also said "there are some things in the resolution I don't agree with, and so we're kind of looking at language."

    Even a Republican senator who won't speak out against the president for fear it will hurt the war effort told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer there is virtually no enthusiasm among Senate Republicans for the plan.

    With the exception of Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the senator said almost no one among Republican senators is enthusiastic about enlarging the force.

    Mr. Bush's meeting with lawmakers was his third session in as many days as he struggles to build support for an increase in troops for a war that is opposed by the public and played a role in Republican setbacks in last fall's elections. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley traveled to the Capitol to meet with House Republicans.

    Bush Airs Doubts On Iraqi Government

    Bush and al-Maliki

    (CBS/AP) President Bush said Tuesday the unruly execution of Saddam Hussein "looked like it was kind of a revenge killing," making it harder to persuade a skeptical U.S. public that Iraq's government will keep promises central to Bush's plan for a troop increase.

    The jury is out if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has the capacity to stop the bloodshed in Iraq, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod.

    "No question there's a headwind," Mr. Bush told PBS' Jim Lehrer. "There's a lot of skepticism in Washington, D.C. There's skepticism about whether or not there's enough troops or whether we should be putting in any troops and there's skepticism whether the Maliki government will make the tough decisions necessary to succeed."

    Inside the White House, they feel they've done everything they can to get al-Maliki on board with what is likely Mr. Bush's last, best plan, reports Axelrod. But there are still doubts that al-Maliki can get it done.

    Mr. Bush criticized the circumstances of Saddam's hanging last month, as well as Monday's execution of two top aides, including Saddam's half brother.

    "I was disappointed and felt like they fumbled the ・particularly the Saddam Hussein execution," the president told Lehrer.

    A cell phone video of Saddam's Dec. 30 hanging showed the deposed Iraqi leader being taunted as he stood on the gallows with a noose around his neck. An official video of the execution of Saddam's half brother showed that the hangman's noose decapitated him. Both hangings provoked outrage around the world, but particularly among Saddam's fellow Sunnis in Iraq.

    Mr. Bush said he had expressed his displeasure about the way Saddam's execution was handled to al-Maliki. The president announced what he called a new strategy for the war last week, with much of it hinging on his trust in al-Maliki's government to make radical changes.

    "It basically says to people, 'Look, you conducted a trial and gave Saddam justice that he didn't give to others. But then, when it came to execute him, it looked like it was kind of a revenge killing,"' the president said.

    "It makes it harder for me to make the case to the American people that this is a government that does want to unify the country and move forward," Mr. Bush said. "And it just goes to show that this is a government that has still got some maturation to do."

    Mr. Bush agreed to the interview, telecast Tuesday evening on PBS' "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," as well as one last weekend on CBS' 60 Minutes to help sell his revised war plan to the public.

    Polls show that Americans are overwhelmingly unhappy with Mr. Bush's Iraq policy. Seventy percent oppose sending more troops to Iraq, as he intends to do, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll last week

    Mr. Bush said if a pollster asked for his opinion about Iraq, "I would be one of those that said, 'No, I don't approve of what's taking place in Iraq."'

    He said that keeping his old policies in place in the war would lead to "a slow failure," but withdrawing from Iraq, as some critics suggest, would result in an "expedited failure."

    "I am frustrated with the progress," the president said. "A year ago, I felt pretty good about the situation. I felt like we were achieving our objective, which is a country that can govern, sustain, and defend itself. No question, 2006 was a lousy year for Iraq."

    Senate Democrats plan by Thursday to introduce a resolution denouncing the president's plan, with floor debate to begin next week ・around the time Bush delivers his State of the Union speech on Jan. 23.

    The bill, by not eliminating funding for either current troops or the additions, would be merely an expression of Congress' position. But it would help Democrats gauge Republican support for more aggressive legislative tactics, as well as embarrass Mr. Bush.

    On Tuesday, Democrats were reaching out to potential Republican co-sponsors. Several GOP senators have spoken out against sending more troops.

    "The hope is to introduce a bill that would be a bipartisan resolution," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

    House Democrats say they will wait for the Senate to debate the resolution before taking up their own. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday he anticipates the Senate will have a "significant bipartisan vote" that will help set the tone for the House debate.

    White House press secretary Tony Snow suggested that Congress' Democratic leaders think through the ramifications of any vote.

    "In an age of instant and global communication, what message does it send to the people who are fighting democracy in Iraq, and also what message does it send to the troops?" he said. "But, you know, the House and Senate are going to do whatever they do. What the president is determined to do is continue moving forward in a way that creates conditions for success in Iraq."

    As the president pressed the case for his troop additions, there were ugly reminders from Iraq of the tough job ahead.

    More than 100 people died in several attacks on predominantly Shiite areas, including an explosion outside a Baghdad university that killed at least 65 people and a blast at a marketplace for used motorcycles. The United Nations, meanwhile, said more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians died last year in sectarian violence.

    Bush to blame failure to secure Baghdad on lack of troops

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Excerpts of President Bush's speech tonight about the Iraq war indicate he will admit the current strategy is flawed.

    Bush gives two reasons for the failure to secure Baghdad in particular, according to the excerpts: There are "not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods" and there are too many restrictions on the troops that are in place.

    "Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does," according to the excerpts.

    "They also report that this plan can work ... and [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Nuri] al-Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated."

    According to the excerpts, Bush also will say that only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence that has besieged their country and he will say that the Iraqi government "has put forward an aggressive plan" to accomplish that.

    Bush is expected to reject ideas "to step back."

    That, the president will say, "would force a collapse of the Iraqi government. ... Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal."

    Earlier Wednesday, top Democrats who had met with the president said they should have been granted a meeting weeks ago to discuss his new war strategy.

    Emerging from their meeting with Bush about 3:15 p.m. ET, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said they felt they were not able to give "input" to what Bush will announce tonight.

    Their meeting "was notification, not consultation," said Pelosi.

    "[Bush] has been practicing the speech," said Reid, as he stood next to Pelosi and addressed reporters' questions. "[Bush] was attentive but the speech is written."

    Reid said his talk with the president did not have "impact."

    "What affect could it have?" he said.

    The Republican congressional leadership is standing behind President Bush's new plan, and faulted Democrats for not offering their own plan for victory.

    "I know many members of Congress are skeptical about will this plan work. We've had other plans. They haven't worked," said House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio. "I think the administration has put together a good plan. It is our best shot at victory in Iraq. And I think that's what the American people want and expect."

    The only issue Republicans and Democrats agree on is that U.S. security operations in Baghdad are fundamentally flawed.

    Senior White House officials said Wednesday that Bush wants to send 21,000 to 24,000 additional U.S. troops to Baghdad and Anbar province over the next few months, and the first of five U.S. Army brigades could leave within weeks.

    According to Pentagon sources, the additional troops will come from a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and the 4th Brigade based in Fort Riley, Kansas.

    Additional troops will follow from Fort Lewis in Washington and Fort Stewart and Fort Benning in Georgia, the sources said.

    The White House will ask Congress for $5.6 billion for the additional troops, and $1.2 billion for rebuilding and jobs programs in Iraq, senior administration officials said.

    Democrats leading the House and Senate are under pressure from opponents of the war to block money for additional troop deployments.

    And while Democrats have been the sharpest critics of Bush's plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq, the president does not enjoy full support in his own party.

    A number of Republican senators -- including Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Sen. Olympia Snow of Maine and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas -- have publicly questioned whether Bush's plan to increase troop strength will help stabilize Iraq.

    "A troop surge in Baghdad would put more American troops at risk to address a problem that is not a military problem," Coleman said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

    "It would put more American soldiers in the cross hairs of sectarian violence and create more targets. I just don't believe this makes sense," Coleman said.

    An 'Iraqi initiative'

    The president is expected to announce his plan in a televised speech at 9 p.m. ET, which will be broadcast on CNN, with a preview beginning at 7 p.m. Bush's address also will be live online on CNN Pipeline.

    Bush will propose an "Iraqi initiative" that requires U.S. support, Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president, said Wednesday. "What we've seen time and time again, the security operations we've attempted in the past in Baghdad had two real fundamental flaws," Bartlett said. Operations did not include enough Iraqi or U.S. troops "to hold the neighborhoods we had cleared throughout Baghdad," he said.

    "Rules of engagement -- where troops could go, who they could go after -- were severely restricted by politics in Baghdad," Bartlett said. "That's going to change as well.

    "The president will chart a new course in Iraq tonight, one that will expect very different results, particularly from the Iraqis."

    Iraq's fledgling government has been strained by infighting while sectarian violence and insurgent attacks have plagued many parts of the capital.

    "It gives us the best chance to give the Iraqi government the kind of breathing space they're going to need to have political reconciliation," Bartlett said.

    Reacting to the plan, an influential group of Sunni Muslim scholars in Iraq said additional U.S. troops will result in the deaths of "many, many more innocent Iraqis."

    "The inability of 140,000 soldiers to achieve their goals in battle makes it unlikely that another 20,000 will be able to do that," said the Association of Muslim Scholars.

    In a White House briefing, officials said the president will propose sending five additional Army brigades of 3,000-4,000 soldiers each to Baghdad, spread among nine districts. Also, the plan calls for 4,000 Marines to go to the troubled Anbar province west of Baghdad, the officials said.

    There are about 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

    In Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers will take the lead, with backup from the Americans, the officials said. The Iraqi army will add three army brigades to Baghdad to make it an Iraqi-led operation. The additional troops will be sent to Iraq in phases, officials said.

    To accomplish the plan, the normal tours of duty for soldiers and Marines will be extended, the officials said. Marines who usually spend seven months in Iraq will be there three or four months longer; soldiers who normally serve for a year will be there up to four months longer.

    To sustain the increase, the Pentagon is expected to have to activate more National Guard and Reserve units, according to the officials.

    The plan, which U.S. officials said the Iraqis helped prepare, would add billions of dollars to the cost of the war.

    Iraq in control by November?

    Bartlett also said that Bush "will make very clear that America's commitment is not open-ended."

    On Tuesday, an unnamed U.S. official said Bush intends to hand control of the country to Iraqi forces by November, the official said.

    The official cautioned that date for Iraq control does not mean U.S. troops would withdraw by then.

    Sources familiar with the White House deliberations also said that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had promised Bush that he would redeploy a large number of Iraqi troops from other parts of the country to help secure Baghdad. Those Iraqi troops' main goal would be to neutralize Shiite militias loyal to influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

    Al-Maliki has been reluctant to move against the militias until now because al-Sadr's political support has been crucial to al-Maliki's rise to power and continuation in office.

    The first deployments would begin by the end of January, a U.S. official said.

    Supporters say more troops are needed to stave off a U.S. defeat in the nearly four-year-old war, which has cost more than $400 billion and the lives of more than 3,000 U.S. troops.

    Congress may vote on plan

    Several U.S. senators on Tuesday voiced their opposition to sending more troops to Iraq. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, proposed a bill requiring congressional approval for any increase in troops. He called the proposed deployment "an immense new mistake."

    Democrats -- in their new position in control of the House of Representatives -- will hash out details Wednesday at their regular caucus meeting, said Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for Pelosi.

    In the Democrat-controlled Senate, Reid said senators are working on a nonbinding resolution opposing more troops, and he said several Republicans are likely to support it.

    Kennedy warns Bush on Iraq troops

    Senator Edward Kennedy outside the White House on 8 January 2006

    US Senator Edward Kennedy has launched a bid to prevent President George W Bush sending more troops to Iraq.

    The veteran Democratic Party senator said he would propose legislation requiring congressional approval for any further deployment of US troops.

    Committing more troops to Iraq would be "an immense new mistake", he said.

    Mr Bush is expected to set out his new strategy for Iraq on Wednesday - a strategy that could include an increase of up to 20,000 troops.

    Senator Kennedy - a long-standing opponent of the war - said Democrats had to act to prevent an escalation of troops in Iraq.

    "The best immediate way to support our troops is by refusing to inject more and more of them into the cauldron of a civil war that can be resolved only by the people and government of Iraq," he said.

    The American people had sent a clear message in the November mid-terms that they wanted a change of course in Iraq, he said.

    "President Bush should not be permitted to escalate the war further, and send an even larger number of our troops into harm's way, without a clear and specific new authorisation from Congress."

    'Significant hurdles'

    Democrats control Congress for the first time in 12 years and House leader Nancy Pelosi warned Mr Bush on Monday that he would have to justify any plans to boost troop levels in Iraq.

    Senator Kennedy's comments came as a poll showed that 61% of Americans opposed a troop increase.

    Approval of Mr Bush's handling of Iraq stood at a new low of 26%, the USA Today/Gallup poll showed.

    The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says that Senator Kennedy's effort will get a far better hearing in Congress than it would have done when the Republicans were in charge but it faces significant hurdles.

    Many Democrats will feel queasy about voting to interfere in military matters, particularly if the newly-appointed commanders in Iraq say they need the reinforcements, our correspondent says.

    Still, Senator Kennedy feels that most Americans are coming round to his way of thinking and he may well be right, he says.

    Mr Bush is due to speak in Washington at 2100 local time on Wednesday (0200 GMT Thursday).

    Biden Announces '08 Presidential Bid

    (AP) Democratic Sen. Joe Biden promoted his presidential bid on Sunday, saying he thinks he can hold his own against potential high-profile rivals such as fellow Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

    "I'll be Joe Biden and I'll try to be the best Biden I can be," the 64-year-old Delaware lawmaker said. "If I can, I have a shot. If I can't, I lose."

    Biden said he will set up an exploratory committee by the end of the month that will help him raise money and gauge support for his candidacy.

    Biden, who long has made clear his intentions to seek the White House in the wide-open race, has about $3.5 million in his campaign account. He has campaigned extensively in early voting states such as New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada.

    "I am running for president," he said on "Meet the Press" on NBC. "I will file for an exploratory committee before the month is out."

    Considered one of his party's most experienced spokesmen on international affairs, Biden is the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    He plans a series of hearings on the Iraq war and has promoted a detailed plan for peace in Iraq that would divide the country along ethnic lines.

    Biden's first presidential bid collapsed 20 years ago amid allegations he plagiarized a campaign speech from then-British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.

    Kissinger Joins Call For Global Nuke Ban

    (AP) Four prominent U.S. defense experts said Thursday the United States could make a "vital contribution" toward ending a growing nuclear proliferation threat by working with other countries toward creating "a world without nuclear weapons."

    Reliance on nuclear weapons as a deterrent 妬s becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective,・the bipartisan group said in a commentary.

    The authors were former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn.

    哲orth Korea's recent nuclear test and Iran's refusal to stop its program to enrich uranium ・potentially to weapons grade ・highlight the fact that the world is now on the precipice of a new and dangerous nuclear era,・they said.

    They also expressed alarm at the likelihood that nonstate terrorists will get their hands on nuclear weapons.

    If nuclear weapons states would band together to end reliance on nuclear weapons, the commentary said, it would lend additional weight to efforts already under way to avoid the emergence of a nuclear-armed North Korea and Iran.・

    Iran and many other non-nuclear countries have long complained about the double standard of nuclear powers in possessing atomic weapons while demanding that others refrain from having them.

    The most notable of the four experts is Kissinger, 83, who has achieved elder statesman status since his service as national security adviser and secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford three decades ago. He is an unofficial adviser on Iraq policy to President George W. Bush.

    Shultz also served in Nixon's cabinet and was President Ronald Reagan's secretary of state for more than six years. Perry was President Bill Clinton's defense secretary for three years and later advised Clinton on North Korea policy. Nunn was chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1991-97 and currently is co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which works to reduce international threats from weapons of mass destruction.

    The essay noted that the concept of a nuclear-free world is not revolutionary, pointing out that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) envisions that nuclear weapons states divest themselves of such armaments over time.

    The essay expressed concern that the increasing number of potential nuclear enemies worldwide could dramatically increase the risk that nuclear weapons will be used.

    New nuclear states do not have the benefit of years of Cold War-era safeguards that prevented nuclear accidents, misjudgments or unauthorized launches, it said.

    Will new nuclear nations and the world be as fortunate in the next 50 years as we were during the Cold War?

    Oops! CNN Mixes Up Obama And Osama

    (AP) CNN apologized Tuesday for mistakenly promoting a story on the search for Osama bin Laden with the headline "Where's Obama?"

    A spokesman for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said the apology was accepted.

    The blunder came Monday evening on Wolf Blitzer's news show, "The Situation Room." Both Soledad O'Brien and Blitzer offered separate apologies during CNN's morning show on Tuesday.

    CNN called it a "bad typographical error" by its graphics department.

    "We want to apologize for that bad typo," Blitzer said. "We also want to apologize personally to Sen. Barack Obama. I'm going to be making a call to him later this morning to offer my personal apology."

    Tommy Vietor, Obama's press secretary, said he appreciated the bloggers and activists who brought the error to light so quickly and helped make sure it was corrected.

    "Though I'd note that the 's' and 'b' keys aren't all that close to each other, I assume it was just an unfortunate mistake and don't think there was any truly malicious intent," Vietor said.

    Bush pays Ford his last respects

    Laura and George Bush pay their respects by the coffin

    US President George W Bush and his wife Laura have paid their last respects to ex-President Gerald Ford as he lies in state in Washington's Capitol building.

    Thousands of people have braved the rain to file past the flag-draped coffin on New Year's Day, the third day of the lying in state.

    Mr Bush will give a eulogy at a Washington funeral service on Tuesday.

    Mr Ford's casket will then go to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for burial near his presidential library on Wednesday.

    As part of the Washington ceremonies, Mr Ford's body will be transferred to a place just outside the Senate chamber ahead of the funeral service, in the National Cathedral.

    Mr Ford died on 26 December aged 93, the longest-living US president.


    One of Monday's visitors to the Capitol, 56-year-old John Erb from Alexandria, Virginia, said he had been in the Army during Mr Ford's administration.

    He said he had come to pay his respects because "it's part of the old commander in chief thing."

    Two of Mr Ford's sons, Jack and Steven, greeted some of the Americans who filed past the casket and honour guard on Sunday.

    Bob Dole, Mr Ford's vice-presidential running mate in 1976, was among those who attended.

    Mr Ford took office after Richard Nixon quit over the Watergate scandal in 1974.

    He served for two years but lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976, a year after the US accepted defeat in the Vietnam War.

    Many mourners at the Capitol remembered his most difficult decision - pardoning Nixon of any crimes committed during his presidency, a decision analysts say probably cost him the 1976 election.

    One attendee, John Banks from Georgia, told the Associated Press: "I thought when he pardoned Nixon he stood up and did what the country needed, not what would further his political career."

    Another mourner, Jack Oslund of Virginia, said: "I think what he brought back to the White House was integrity, trust."

    In an interview with the Washington Post, conducted shortly before his death and published on Sunday, Mr Ford expressed regret over the Vietnam War.

    "I hope we never live through another era like that in American history. The answers were very evasive. The results were very disillusioning," he said.

    Bush: Execution 'An Important Milestone'

    (CBS/AP) President George W. Bush said that Saddam Hussein's execution marks the "end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops" and cautioned that his death will not halt the violence in Iraq.

    Yet, Bush said in a statement issued late Friday from his ranch in Texas, "it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror."

    In a message of assurance to the people of Iraq, Bush said the execution was a reminder of how far the Iraqi people have come since the end of Saddam's rule.

    "The progress they have made would not have been possible without the continued service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform," he said.

    Bush, who has spent weeks crafting a new U.S. policy in Iraq, warned of more challenges for U.S. troops.

    "Many difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead," he said. "Yet the safety and security of the American people require that we not relent in ensuring that Iraq's young democracy continues to progress."

    When Saddam was apprehended in 2003, Bush promised that the deposed Iraqi leader would "face the justice he denied to millions." The administration blamed Saddam for hundreds of thousands of mass executions.

    In November, Saddam was sentenced to death after being convicted of murder in the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims from an Iraqi town where assassins tried to kill him in 1982.

    After three decades in power, Saddam was captured in December 2003 in an underground hideout on a farm near his hometown of Tikrit. Two days later, Bush remarked: "Good riddance. The world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam Hussein."

    The president was briefed at 6:15 p.m. CST (00015 GMT) by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about the execution procedure, and that it would go forward in the next few hours. Hadley had been in touch with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, who had been in contact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

    CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller reports that Bush was asleep when the execution occurred.

    "The president concluded his day knowing that the final phase of bringing Saddam Hussein to justice was under way," deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel said.

    Bush Sheltered During Tornado Alert

    President Bush and wife, Laura, at the christening ceremony for the George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) aircraft carrier in Newport News, Va., Oct. 7, 2006.

    (CBS/AP) President Bush and first lady Laura Bush were moved to an armored vehicle on their ranch Friday when a tornado warning was issued in central Texas, the White House said.

    The vehicle was driven to a tornado shelter on the ranch, and the president, Mrs. Bush and their two Scottish terriers sat inside until the weather cleared, deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel said.

    The storm passed while they waited in their vehicle and the Bushes didn't have to enter the shelter, reports CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller.

    The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning at 2:34 p.m. CST after a severe thunderstorm with a history of producing tornadoes was reported 13 miles south of Clifton, Texas, and moving northeast. Clifton is 20 miles northwest of Crawford.

    Stanzel said he did not know how long the Bushes and their dogs, Miss Beazley and Barney, had to stay in the vehicle, but that it was not "terribly long."

    The rush to the tornado shelter interrupted Bush's day at the ranch where he cleared some cedar and was kept abreast of plans to execute Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

    He received calls to wish him a happy new year from outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is visiting Miami, also called Bush to talk about Iraq.

    Stanzel said Bush spent time on the rainy, windy day contemplating the new plan for U.S. policy in Iraq that he plans to announce in the new year. Bush hosted a National Security Council meeting at his ranch on Thursday.

    Bush: Iraq Plan Must Wait Until New Year

    President Bush in Crawford, Texas.

    (CBS/AP) President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he will announce in the new year.

    Burdened by low approval ratings on his handling of the war, the president is under mounting pressure to come up with a new blueprint for U.S. involvement in Iraq, where the execution of Saddam Hussein perhaps as early as this weekend could incite further violence.

    "We've got more consultation to do until I talk to the country about the plan," Mr. Bush said, appearing before reporters outside an office building near his Texas ranch. Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates flanked Mr. Bush as he made his statement.

    "The key to success in Iraq is to have a government that's willing to deal with the elements that are trying to prevent this young democracy from succeeding," the president said.

    The session was billed as a chance for Mr. Bush to further discuss all the options ・including one that would send another 20,000 troops into Baghdad, which would almost certainly mean more American casualties, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

    Playing down expectations, the White House called the meeting a "non-decisional" gathering.

    As Mr. Bush spoke, the administration was preparing for the execution of Saddam Hussein as early as this weekend, based on information that U.S. officials in Baghdad were receiving from the Iraqi government, a senior administration official said.

    Mr. Bush has been saddled with low approval ratings on the war and is under increasing pressure to come up with a new war plan in Iraq, where the Saddam's execution could incite further violence. The president took no questions from reporters and offered no details about the strategy he is set to announce to the nation sometime next month.

    The president is considering the so-called surge option: increasing the number of troops in Iraq and embedding more U.S. advisers in Iraqi units in hopes of quelling violence to provide a window of opportunity for political reconciliation and rebuilding.

    One of the options is to send another 20,000 troops into Baghdad, which would almost certainly mean more American casualties.

    A Pentagon official says commanders in Iraq told Gates they could support a surge in troops, if it was part of a larger plan to turn responsibility over to Iraqi forces and to put unemployed Iraqis back to work with reconstruction projects, Martin reports. But the same official said a smaller buildup ・of about 8,000 U.S. troops ・is the most Iraqi prime minister Malaki could handle politically.

    "I think the debate is really coming down to: Surge large. Surge small. Surge short. Surge longer," said Tom Donnelly, a defense and security expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "I think the smart money would say that the range of options is fairly narrow and driven by the situation on the ground in Iraq.

    "Some military experts viewed the president's unexpected remarks last week that he backs future expansion of the overall size of the Army and Marine Corps to lessen strain on ground forces as a hint that he plans to send in more troops.

    "As I think about this plan, I always have our troops in mind," Mr. Bush said in a brief statement in which he thanked the troops for their service.

    He pledged to continue consulting with members of Congress and the Iraqis and stressed the importance of having a government in Iraq that can deal with the militias and the rising violence.

    Mr. Bush said one of his resolutions for the new year is that the troops will be safe and that the United States would come closer to its goal in 2007 of having an Iraq that can sustain independence and govern itself.

    "We want to help them succeed," he said, adding that "I fully understand that it's important to have both Republicans and Democrats understanding the importance of this mission.

    "It's important for the American people to understand that success in Iraq is vital for our own security. If we were not to succeed in Iraq, the enemy ・the extremists, the radicals ・would have safe haven from which to launch further attacks. They would be emboldened. They would be in a position to threaten the United States of America."

    But the president's decision to invade Iraq came under criticism from an unlikely source: late president Gerald Ford.

    Martin reports that in an interview conducted two years ago by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, but released only after Ford's death, he said, "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraqi war."

    A senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the president had already publicly talked about the meeting said the gathering lasted nearly three hours and was followed by a lunch. Another National Security Council session was likely before Mr. Bush announces his plan in the first few weeks of January, the official said.

    He said that Gates and Pace, who just returned from Iraq, elaborated on the briefing they gave the president at Camp David, Md., before Christmas and talked more about what they saw and heard on the ground. The bulk of the meeting focused on security, but the president and his advisers also talked about economic and political issues in Iraq.

    The official said that following memorial events for former President Gerald R. Ford and the start of the new Congress on Jan. 4, Mr. Bush and his advisers would be conducting further consultations with lawmakers.

    "I would be surprised if people walked out of the room still completely confused as to the direction he wants to go in," John Podesta, former President Bill Clinton's chief of staff and president of the liberal Center for American Progress, said Wednesday. "If they do, that's yet another bad sign that we're completely adrift."

    Initially, White House advisers said Mr. Bush would announce a plan before the Dec. 25 Christmas holiday. Then, they said it was more likely after the first of the year. Now, they say only that Mr. Bush will deliver his speech sometime between New Year's and his State of the Union address on Jan. 23.

    "They've got to be looking at his poll ratings that have sunk to record low levels and say, 'We've got to get out there and change the political discourse on this question' and try to re-establish the president's authority," Podesta said, adding that each day Mr. Bush delays announcing his decision, the public becomes more skeptical that he has a plausible plan.

    In another action that might foreshadow an increase in troops, the Pentagon on Wednesday announced that the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division will deploy to Kuwait to serve as the reserve force early next year.

    The unit ・which would include as many as 3,300 soldiers ・is expected to be deployed into Iraq early next year. The move could be part of a short-term surge of troops to the battlefront to quell the continuing violence.

    In a letter to congressional leaders on Wednesday, Podesta and other policy makers urged lawmakers to fund troops already in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he suggested that an up-or-down vote in Congress be required if lawmakers are asked to fund more than 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. There are about 140,000. In addition, the letter calls for putting limits on the mobilization of National Guard and Reserve forces.

    The Nation Remembers Gerald R. Ford

    President Gerald Ford

    (CBS/AP) President George W. Bush hailed Gerald R. Ford for his administration's honor. Former President Jimmy Carter, to whom Ford lost the presidential election 20 years ago, called him "a man of highest integrity," and former President Bill Clinton cited his strength and humility.

    "With his quiet integrity, common sense and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency," President George W. Bush said in a statement to the nation from his Texas ranch Wednesday. "The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration."

    In the uncertain days after the Watergate scandal, those qualities were what the nation was looking for.

    "Jerry Ford was, simply put, one of the most decent and capable men I ever met," former President George H.W. Bush said.

    Read: More Reactions To Ford's Death
    Watch: President George W. Bush

    Watch: Former President George H.W. Bush

    Ford, who died Tuesday at 93, was remembered for getting and keeping the country on course in shaky times.

    "An outstanding statesman, he wisely chose the path of healing during a deeply divisive time in our nation's history," Carter said. "He frequently rose above politics by emphasizing the need for bipartisanship and seeking common ground on issues critical to our nation. I will always cherish the personal friendship we shared."

    Though one of his most significant moves ・pardoning President Richard M. Nixon for any crimes committed in office ・was widely derided at the time, many have since come to see it as a gesture that healed the country as much as it hurt Ford's aspirations to be elected president in 1976.

    Nixon's daughter Patricia Nixon Cox offered her "heartfelt sympathy" to the Ford family, saying: "History will honor Gerald Ford as a good man who became the respected leader of the Free World in unique times."

    "My father had deep respect for Gerald Ford as an honorable and dedicated public servant," she said.

    Read: Nixon Pardon's Effect
    CBS News Exclusive: Ford Talks About Nixon

    According to historian Douglas Brinkley, Ford and Nixon remained close friends during and after Ford's presidency. Nixon wrote Ford frequently with advice, including ways to defeat Reagan and Carter in 1976, Brinkley told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

    "He was the last of the Nixon believers," Brinkley said.

    From Europe, leaders praised Ford for his role as a statesman.

    In London, the Union flag over Buckingham Palace, the residence of Queen Elizabeth II, would fly at half-staff all day Thursday.

    A spokesman at the palace said that the Queen, who met Ford during a state visit to the United States in 1976 where she attended U.S. bicentennial celebrations with him, was saddened by the news of his death.

    "The Queen is sending a private message of condolence to President Bush and Mrs. Ford," the palace said.

    German President Horst Koehler offered his "deeply felt condolences" and described Ford as "a great American" who played an important role in advancing trans-Atlantic ties and as "one of the founding fathers of the world economic summits of the leading industrial nations."

    Czech President Vaclav Klaus called Ford "an outstanding politician" whose work "was instrumental for freedom in my country and for the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe."

    Former President Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, said their prayers were with the Ford family.

    "Gerald Ford brought Americans together during a difficult chapter in our history with strength, integrity, and humility," the Clintons said. "All Americans should be grateful for his life of service.

    "To his great credit, he was the same hardworking, down-to-earth person the day he left the White House as he was when he first entered Congress almost 30 years earlier."

    Former first lady Nancy Reagan, whose late husband mounted a challenge to Ford in the Republican presidential primaries in 1976, praised Ford for his service to the nation during and after his time in office.

    "His accomplishments and devotion to our country are vast, and even long after he left the presidency he made it a point to speak out on issues important to us all," she said.

    Read: Gerald Ford's Career
    Read: Ford's Poll Numbers

    Although Ford had moved to California after leaving the White House, his ties to his native Michigan remained strong, and in his boyhood home of Grand Rapids a steady stream of people lit candles, draped flags and placed flowers Wednesday at a makeshift shrine outside the Gerald R. Ford Museum. The museum opened condolence books for visitors to sign in the vestibule.

    "The country was in scandal and war and he used the opportunity to heal the country and become one of the most important people in history," Joseph B. Niewiek, 31, a used car lot owner from Grand Rapids, said as he lit a candle at the museum.

    "President Ford made Michigan proud as he led our nation through one of the most challenging times in our history. Our prayers go out to his family," said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat

    The New York Stock Exchange honored Ford with two minutes of silence before the start of trading Wednesday morning.

    "No man could have been better suited to the task of healing our nation and restoring faith in our government," California Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger.said.

    Vice President Dick Cheney served as Ford's chief of staff.

    "In that troubled era, America needed strength, wisdom, and good judgment, and those qualities came to us in the person of Gerald R. Ford," Cheney said in a statement. "When he left office, he had restored public trust in the presidency, and the nation once again looked to the future with confidence and faith

    U.S. Troop Deaths In Iraq Exceed 9/11 Toll

    US soldier in baghdad

    (CBS/AP) The U.S. military announced the deaths of seven American soldiers Tuesday, raising the U.S. death toll since the beginning of the Iraq war to at least 2,978 ・five more than the number of people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S.

    At least 54 Iraqis also died in bombings on Tuesday, officials said, including a coordinated strike that killed 25 in western Baghdad.

    The three coordinated car bombs in western Baghdad injured at least 55 people, a doctor at Yarmouk hospital, where the victims were taken, said on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns. The attacks occurred in a mixed Sunni and Shiite neighborhood.

    In other attacks, a car bomb exploded near a Sunni mosque in northern Baghdad at the beginning of the evening rush hour, killing 17 people and wounding 35, a doctor at Al-Nuaman hospital said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

    A bomb also exploded in a central Baghdad market, killing four people and wounding 15, police said. Two roadside bombs targeted an Iraqi police patrol in an eastern neighborhood of the capital, killing four policemen and injuring 12 people.

    In Kirkuk, 180 miles north of the Iraqi capital, a roadside bomb killed three civilians ・including an 8-year-old girl ・and wounded six other people, police said.

    The tragic milestone for the U.S. military was reached with the deaths of seven soldiers Monday and Tuesday in bombings and other violence in the war-torn country.

    Tuesday, a bomb killed three American soldiers and wounded one northwest of Baghdad.

    "The patrol was conducting a route clearance mission when a roadside bomb exploded near them," the military said.

    Two of the soldiers killed Monday were in their vehicle when a roadside bomb went off southwest of Baghdad, the military said.

    "The joint patrol was conducting security operations in order to stop terrorists from placing roadside bombs in the area," it said in a statement on the latest deaths. "As they conducted their mission, a roadside bomb exploded near one of their vehicles."

    In a separate incident, another soldier was killed in an explosion while on a foot patrol in the same area, a second statement said. Three soldiers were wounded in the incidents, the military said.

    The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks claimed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Opponents of President Bush have criticized him for raising the attacks as a justification for the protracted fight in Iraq.

    Prior to the deaths announced Tuesday, the AP count was 15 higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EST. At least 2,377 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

    CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports that December is already the second deadliest month of 2006 for U.S. forces in Iraq. The depressing question now, Pinkston says, is whether the final figure will exceed October's of 106.

    In Washington, White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel said Tuesday that Mr. Bush grieves for each member of the armed forces who has died.

    "The war on terror is going to be a long struggle," he said. "We will be fighting violent jihadists for the peace and security of the civilized world for many years to come."

    The figures came as American troops fought gunmen in a Shiite militia stronghold Tuesday in east Baghdad, according to witnesses. Fighters loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were engaged in clashes with U.S. forces in and near Sadr City, an official in al- Sadr's office said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

    Snipers from both sides were deployed on rooftops and helicopters hovered overhead, he said. Explosions were heard throughout the area.

    An Associated Press reporter in the area said U.S. troops exchanged fire with gunmen.

    Another sobering statistic; Iraqi officials report that 12,000 national police officers have been killed since the invasion in 2003, says Pinkston

    In other developments:

  • An Iraqi appeals court has upheld the death sentence for Saddam Hussein, Iraq's national security adviser said Tuesday. "The appeals court approved the verdict to hang Saddam," said the official, Mouwafak al-Rubaie. The sentence "must be implemented within 30 days," chief judge Aref Shahin. "From tomorrow, any day could be the day of implementation."

  • A top Senate Democrat said he will fight President Bush if the administration decides to send more U.S. troops to Iraq. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a likely presidential candidate, also warned that if congressional Republicans do not join him in speaking out against Mr. Bush that they ・not Democrats ・will suffer in the 2008 elections.

  • Two senior defense officials say Defense Secretary Robert Gates has signed orders that will send a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division to Kuwait. The soldiers are expected to be deployed into Iraq early next year. The 82nd Airborne unit, which would include as many as 3,300 soldiers, will replace a Marine unit that had served as the reserve force based in Kuwait but has been deployed into Iraq.

  • The White House said Monday that U.S. troops in Iraq detained at least two Iranians and released two others who had diplomatic immunity. CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports the Iranians were captured in two raids last week and are suspected of planning attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security forces.

  • British soldiers were on alert for reprisals Tuesday a day after they raided a police station in the southern city of Basra, killing seven gunmen in an effort to stop renegade Iraqi officers from executing their prisoners.

  • Randall Pinkston reports (video) American soldiers at Camp Victory in Baghdad held onto as much of the holiday spirit as they could on Christmas Day, away from home and family.

    Clinton, Obama Neck And Neck In N.H. Poll

    (AP) Two weeks after Sen. Barack Obama's first trip to New Hampshire, a new poll shows him about even with Sen. Hillary Clinton among likely voters in the state's 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

    Among participants in the Concord Monitor poll, 22 percent said they would vote for Clinton if the primary was held now, and 21 percent said Obama. That put them slightly ahead of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who was at 16 percent.

    Last month, a Monitor poll showed Clinton leading Obama by 23 percentage points.

    "I'm not surprised because Barack Obama got five days of constant media attention in New Hampshire," said Jim Demers, a Democratic activist who accompanied Obama throughout his visit. "Obama has demonstrated to the people of New Hampshire that he's a top tier candidate."

    On the Republican side, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain are about even, with Giuliani at 26 percent and McCain at 25 percent. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is next with 10 percent.

    The telephone poll of 600 likely voters was conducted Monday through Wednesday by Maryland-based Research 2000 and had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The likely voters for the Democratic and Republican primary totaled 400 respondents each. For those questions, the margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

    In hypothetical general election matchups, Giuliani has a slight lead over Clinton, while Clinton and McCain are about even. Obama is slightly ahead of both Giuliani and McCain. Edwards is tied with McCain and about even with Giuliani.

    "There are a lot of independents. These are the same people who loathe Bush, loathe the Iraq war," said Del Ali, president of Research 2000. "But deep down, they don't like Hillary Clinton."

    The numbers don't mean much roughly a year before the primary, some experts cautioned. President Bush, for example, held a double-digit lead over McCain in a New Hampshire poll nine months before the 2000 primary.

    "You will have this tremendous amount of energy and motion to secure the allegiance of about 5,000 people," said Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. "And nobody else is going to start paying attention until after the summer."

    Schwarzenegger Breaks Leg In Ski Accident

    California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks at a gathering of the California Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Wednesday, July 19, 2006.

    (AP) California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger broke his leg while skiing with his family in Sun Valley, Idaho, a spokesman said.

    Schwarzenegger, 59, was taken to a local hospital for X-rays after the Saturday morning accident and was soon discharged with a fracture to his right femur, said Adam Mendelsohn, the governor's Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications.

    Schwarzenegger would have surgery to repair his femur when he returns to Los Angeles from his scheduled holiday trip, Mendelsohn said. The governor was resting at his Sun Valley home Saturday night and still planned to spend Christmas there.

    No one else was involved in the skiing accident, Mendelsohn said.

    The fracture was the second medical problem suffered by the governor in just over a year. He spent several hours at a University of California, Davis, hospital last December with a rapid heartbeat after coming down with a stomach flu.

    The Sun Valley Resort, a favorite skiing destination for celebrities, includes a short ski trail named "Arnold's Run" after Schwarzenegger. The trail is categorized as a black diamond, or most difficult, for its challenging terrain.

    The name and level of difficulty of the trail the governor was skiing when his accident occurred were not released.

    Gates rushes back to U.S.; will meet with Bush at Camp David

    BAGHDAD (AP) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates rushed back to Washington on Friday to give President Bush his advice on transforming U.S. policy in Iraq after holding three days of talks in the war zone with military and political leaders.

    VIDEO: Gates hears from troops

    Gates was scheduled to see Bush at Camp David first thing Saturday morning, said Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser Stephen Hadley and deputy national security adviser J.D. Crouch, who has been coordinating Bush's review of Iraq policy, were also to attend the discussions at the Maryland mountain retreat where Bush was spending Christmas.

    As the president weighs a course correction in the increasingly unpopular war, the White House also announced that Bush would convene a meeting of his full National Security Council next Thursday while spending a few days at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. That session was not designed to arrive at final decisions, but to continue to whittle down the options, Perino said.

    Originally aiming to unveil his new Iraq policy before Christmas, Bush has put it off until January. Perino said the announcement would come before his scheduled Jan. 23 State of the Union address, but gave no specific date.

    Gates arrived in Washington on Friday night. Before leaving Baghdad, he declined to say whether he plans to recommend a short-term increase in U.S. troop levels. But he said he believes the U.S. and Iraqis have "a broad strategic agreement between the Iraqi military and Iraqi government and our military."

    "There is still some work to be done," Gates said. "But I do expect to give a report to the president on what I've learned and my perceptions."

    Speaking to reporters at Camp Victory, with the sounds of artillery fire and jet aircraft in the background, Gates said that "clearly there are more discussions that need to take place in Washington and more specific recommendations."

    He said Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, was continuing to work with Iraqi officials, with more details expected in the days ahead.

    Gates said he is "quite confident that what I've heard from the Iraqis of their plans this week, that we will be able together, and with them in the lead, we will be able to make an improvement in the security situation in Baghdad."

    Gates also said that he does not believe there is a large split among Iraqi leaders about whether there should be an increase in U.S. troops. The issue, he said, is how the Iraqis assert their own leadership in taking charge of their own fate.

    The new defense chief, who was sworn in on Monday, traveled to Iraq with a mandate to scope out a new war strategy, as the Bush administration continues to search for a way to bring the violence in the embattled country under control.

    To that end, Gates shuttled back and forth across Baghdad over the last three days meeting with his military commanders and Iraqi government officials, and gathering input from U.S. troops.

    On Iran, Gates told reporters there has been an increase in Naval forces in the Persian Gulf. But he denied that it was a direct reaction to any movements by Iran to pursue a nuclear program.

    Instead, Gates said, the message to the Gulf countries is that the United States is going to be an enduring presence in the region.

    "We've been here for a long time and we will be here for a long time," he said.

    Gates' visit comes as Bush is reassessing U.S. policy in the war, which is widely opposed by the American public after 3½ years of bloodshed. Among the president's options is whether to quickly add thousands of U.S. troops to the 140,000 already in Iraq, in hopes of staunching the escalating violence in Baghdad and elsewhere.

    Flanked by Casey and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gates said he has asked Casey to confer with Iraqi military leaders and the prime minister to make specific recommendations on how to improve the security situation.

    "Clearly success will only be achieved by a joint effort with Iraqis taking the lead," he said.

    Gates has said he did not talk about specific numbers of U.S. troops with the Iraqi officials. During his meetings here, Gates assured the Iraqis of "the steadfastness of American support."

    Gates said he discussed with the Iraqis how their government could reverse the deteriorating security problem. Besides an unrelenting insurgency, killings and kidnappings between Sunnis and Shiites are approaching civil war dimensions with U.S. and civilian casualties rising.

    Gates said there are several approaches that could be used to improve security, yet offered few details.

    Gates started his day Friday having breakfast with six Army soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division to discuss their mission training Iraqi troops in southern Iraq. The group is part of Task Force 2-15, which has about 400 soldiers embedded with the 4th Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Army Division.

    Lt. Col. Bob Morschauser, a soldier from Fairless Hills, Pa., said the Iraqis are improving and gaining confidence. He said the U.S. troops are hoping the Iraqis will be able to operate on their own in less than a year.

    8 Marines face charges in Haditha killings


    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Four Marines have been charged with murder in the 2005 killings of 24 Iraqi civilians, and four officers are accused of failing to investigate and report the deaths properly, the Marine Corps announced Thursday.

    A Marine investigation into the killings found initial reports -- including a press release that blamed the civilian deaths on a roadside bomb -- were "inaccurate and untimely," Marine Col. Stewart Navarre told reporters.

    "We now know with certainty the press release was incorrect, and that none of the civilians were killed by the IED," Navarre said.

    Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz and Lance Cpls. Justin Sharratt and Stephen Tatum have been charged with unpremeditated murder in the civilian deaths. Wuterich also is charged with making a false official statement and trying to get another Marine to make a false statement.

    Haditha, located along the Euphrates River, was the target of previous Marine campaigns aimed at rooting out insurgents. Wuterich was leading a patrol through the city on November 19, 2005, when the unit was hit by a roadside bomb that killed one of its members.

    The service launched its investigation in March, after an Iraqi human rights group raised allegations that the Marines had gone on a house-to-house rampage after the bombing.

    None of the men charged Thursday will be held in the brig before trial, Navarre said.

    Neal Puckett, one of Wuterich's attorneys, told reporters Wuterich was on two weeks' leave with his family at Camp Pendleton. His wife, Marisol, is expecting a baby any day. He has previously denied wrongdoing, and specifically denies allegations that he asked Dela Cruz to lie, Puckett said.

    According to a Time magazine report, the Marines said they faced threats from the houses where the Iraqi civilians were killed and responded with appropriate force. (Read the Time magazine report on Hadithaexternal link)

    "There's no question that people died that day, innocent civilians died that day," Puckett said. "But Staff Sgt. Wuterich maintains, and quite frankly I believe, that they did everything they were supposed to do that day in protecting themselves."

    Sharratt's attorney, Gary Myers, told CNN, "Our view has been and continues to be that these were combat-related deaths."

    Wuterich's detachment was part of Kilo Company, from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, based at Camp Pendleton. Their battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, "wrongfully failed to accurately report and thoroughly investigate a possible, suspected, or alleged violation of the law of war by Marines under his command," the Marines announced.

    Chessani has been charged with one count of violating a lawful order and two counts of dereliction of duty. Three other officers -- Capt. Randy Stone, Capt. Lucas McConnell and 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson -- also face charges in the case: Grayson is charged with obstruction of justice, dereliction of duty and making a false statement; McConnell and Stone are charged with dereliction of duty; and Stone faces an additional count of violating a lawful order.

    In addition to the murder charges, which carry a possible life sentence, Dela Cruz is charged with making a false statement and Tatum is charged with negligent homicide and assault.

    If convicted, the accused officers face sentences ranging from administrative punishment, such as loss of rank and pay, to prison terms of up to five years for obstruction of justice.

    Although more than a year has passed since the raid, Navarre defended the pace of the investigation.

    "The investigations and the referral of charges have been done as quickly as possible, but no quicker -- no slower, no faster," he said. "The intent is to move through the process as quickly as we can, making sure that we take the necessary time to ensure a complete, full, impartial execution of the process."

    Wuterich has sued anti-war congressman John Murtha for libel, accusing the Pennsylvania Democrat and former Marine colonel of falsely accusing the Marines of killing civilians in "cold blood." Puckett said Thursday that if that were true, the men would have been charged with premeditated murder.

    Bush Plans To Expand Military

    President Bush speaks at Pentagon re: Iraq strategy (12/13/06)

    (CBS/AP) President Bush, working to recraft his strategy in Iraq, said Tuesday that he plans to increase the size of the U.S. military so it can fight a long-term war against terrorism.

    In an interview with The Washington Post, Bush said he has asked his new defense chief, Robert Gates, to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces. The president did not say how many troops might be added, but said he agreed with officials in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the current military is being stretched too thin to deal with demands of fighting terrorism.

    "I'm inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops ・the Army, the Marines," Bush said in the Oval Office session. "And I talked about this to Secretary Gates and he is going to spend some time talking to the folks in the building, come back with a recommendation to me about how to proceed forward on this idea."

    Top generals have expressed concern that even temporarily shipping thousands of more troops would be largely ineffective in the absence of bold new political and economic steps, and that it would leave the already stretched Army and Marines Corps even thinner once the surge ended.

    They also worry that it feeds a perception that the strife and chaos in Iraq is mainly a military problem; in their view it is largely political, fed by economic distress.

    It will take time to train and recruit more soldiers, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin. Army chief of staff General Pete Schoomaker estimates the army could increase its current number of 507,000 by at most 7,000 a year. And it will also cost a lot of money ・those additional 7,000 soldiers would cost about $840 million a year.

    Bush said he has not yet made a decision about a new strategy for Iraq, which he is expected to announce next month. He said he was waiting for Gates to return from his expected trip to Iraq to get a firsthand look at the situation.

    "I need to talk to him when he gets back," the president said. "I've got more consultations to do with the national security team, which will be consulting with other folks. And I'm going to take my time to make sure that the policy, when it comes out, the American people will see that we ... have got a new way forward."

    Bush said his decision to increase the size of the armed forces was in response not just to the war in Iraq, but to the broader struggle against Islamic extremists around the globe.

    "It is an accurate reflection that this ideological war we're in is going to last for a while and that we're going to need a military that's capable of being able to sustain our efforts and to help us achieve peace," he said.

    Hillary Talks Troop Levels, 2008 Run

    (AP) Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday she would not support a short-term increase in American troop presence in Iraq unless it was part of a more comprehensive plan to stabilize the country.

    Clinton also offered the broadest indication yet that she was close to a decision on whether to enter the 2008 Democratic presidential field.

    "I want to make sure the decision is right for me, my family, my party and my country," Clinton said during an interview on NBC's "The Today Show." She appeared on the show to promote the re-release of her best-selling book on child rearing, "It Takes a Village."

    The former first lady said she knew more than any other potential candidate how hard it was to be president. "I saw it in an up close and personal way for eight years," she said. She reiterated that she would not disclose her decision until sometime after the first of the year.

    Clinton's comments on the presidential race were her most expansive since winning re-election to the Senate from New York last month. Since then, she has been contacting potential supporters in key early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, but publicly has said very little about her plans.

    She also offered praise for Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who has also indicated he may enter the race. Obama drew huge crowds on a visit to New Hampshire earlier this month.

    "He's terrific. He's a friend and a colleague. I have very high regard for him," she said, while sidestepping a question about whether Obama would make a good president.

    "I think he is a really exciting personality and someone who has a lot to contribute to the national dialogue," Clinton said.

    Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, said she was not in favor of a proposed "surge" of some 20,000-40,000 American troops into Baghdad to quell the sectarian violence there. President Bush is reportedly considering such a move as one of many options to improve the situation in Iraq.

    Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the incoming Senate Majority Leader, suggested over the weekend he would support a short-term troop increase if it would speed up the time frame for pulling troops out of Iraq.

    Clinton indicated she was skeptical of such a proposal.

    "I am not in favor of doing that unless it's part of a larger plan," Clinton said. "I am not in favor of sending more troops to continue what our men and women have been told to do, with the government of Iraq pulling the rug out from under them when they actually go after some of the bad guys."

    Clinton, who voted in 2002 to authorize military intervention in Iraq, said she was wary of increased military presence in the war-torn country.

    "I'm not going to believe this president again," Clinton said.

    In an commentary published Monday in the Wall Street Journal, Clinton and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., urged the Bush administration to press the Iraqi government to apportion that country's oil revenues so that "every individual Iraqi would share in the country's oil wealth."

    Clinton has pushed for an "Iraq Oil Trust" modeled on the Alaskan Permanent Fund to give residents a share of the revenues. "A significant percentage of oil revenues would be divided equally among ordinary Iraqis, giving every citizen a stake in the nation's recovery and political reconciliation and instilling a sense of hope for the promise of democratic values," the senators wrote.

    Clinton's defense chief warns of Iraq 'quagmire'


    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Defense Secretary William Perry, a member of the Iraq Study Group, said Saturday that Iraq could turn into a "quagmire" if the Bush administration fails to change strategy.

    Perry, who led the Pentagon under President Clinton, delivered the Democratic Party's weekly radio address.

    Referring to the Vietnam War, Perry said: "The term 'quagmire' recalls one of the saddest periods in American history, which we do not want to relive. But I believe that is likely to happen if we 'stay the course' in Iraq."

    Perry reiterated the recommendations of last week's report from the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton.

    "We need to accelerate the training of Iraqi army and police forces," Perry said. "We need to begin to pull out U.S. combat brigades, with the goal of having all except rapid-reaction forces out by first quarter of 2008. ... We need to push friendly regional powers to assist. We need to put pressure on unfriendly regional powers to stop arming militias and fomenting violence. And finally, we need to invigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."

    President Bush has been meeting over the last week with current and former military leaders -- as well as advisers from other parts of the government -- to assess possible new strategies for the Iraq war. But he has made it clear he will not map out a new war strategy until his new defense secretary, Robert Gates, has taken over and offered his counsel.

    The Iraq Study Group report was critical of just about every aspect of the administration's war policies. Bush welcomed some of its recommendations but dismissed others, particularly the call for withdrawing a substantial number of U.S. troops over the next year.

    Perry said he believed the report "will frame the debate in our country this coming year. And it will demonstrate that it is possible, even in the poisonous political climate that now exists, to address important national problems in a truly bipartisan manner."

    John Edwards Will Announce An '08 Run

    (CBS/AP) Former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards intends to enter the 2008 race for the White House, two Democratic officials said Saturday.

    Edwards, who represented North Carolina in the Senate for six years, plans to make the campaign announcement late this month from the New Orleans neighborhood hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina last year and slow to recover from the storm.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt Edwards' announcement.

    As Edwards enters the crowded field, the Lower Ninth Ward provides a stark backdrop to highlight his signature issue ・that economic inequality means that the country is divided into "two Americas."

    Edwards also plans to travel from New Orleans through the four early presidential nominating states ・Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

    Among Democrats, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois are drawing the most attention almost two years before the actual vote.

    On Friday night, another prominent Democrat, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, announced that he would not make a run for the White House in 2008.

    Edwards, however, is in a strong position as the leading candidate in Iowa. He was a top fundraiser in the race for the nomination in 2004 before he became Democratic Sen. John Kerry's running mate.

    Since the Democrats' loss to President Bush, Edwards has worked to build support for a repeat presidential bid.

    Edwards' spokesman, David Ginsberg, would not confirm or deny that Edwards planned to announce he would run in 2008.

    Ginsberg said Edwards would make an announcement about his future when he is ready.

    US 'not winning conflict in Iraq'

    Former CIA director Robert Gates

    US Defence Secretary nominee Robert Gates has told a Senate committee that the US is not winning the war in Iraq.

    Mr Gates told a confirmation hearing he was open to new ideas on Iraq, but warned the situation there would shape the Middle East for years to come.

    The committee approved him to replace Donald Rumsfeld, who quit last month amid criticism of his Iraq policy.

    The next chairman of the panel said Mr Gates would face a monumental challenge if confirmed by a full Senate vote.

    After the 21 senators on the committee unanimously approved Mr Gates, the Senate should vote by the end of the week, with approval widely expected.

    Senate hearings on Mr Gates' nomination began a day before the Iraq Study Group - of which Mr Gates was a member - publishes its findings.

    The session also came on another violent day in Iraq.

    More than 30 people were killed in shootings and car bomb attacks in Baghdad, Iraqi officials said. At least 30 more died in violence in northern and south-western Iraq.

    'Regional conflagration'

    Mr Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that all options remained on the table for Iraq.

    He agreed with the panel that the situation was unacceptable and said he would introduce a change of tactics, if confirmed.

    Mr Gates said he would do his utmost to avoid chaos in Iraq.

    "Our course over the next year or two will determine whether the American and Iraqi people and the next president of the US will face a slowly but steadily improving situation in Iraq or... the very real risk and possible reality of a regional conflagration," he said.

    Asked by the next chairman of the panel, Democratic Senator Carl Levin, if he believed the US was winning, Mr Gates replied: "No, Sir."

    He later said he believed the US was neither winning nor losing, "at this point".

    Mr Levin said the US needed someone who would speak the truth, and not just tell the president what he wanted to hear.

    Mr Gates said the president would have the last say on any changes in approach, but he would speak his mind to both Mr Bush and Congress.

    "I did not want this job," he reminded the senators.

    "I'm doing it because I love my country."

    In wide-ranging remarks, the nominee also:

    • Said the US should attack Iran only as a last resort and he would not support military action against Syria
    • Called for a broad bipartisan agreement on how to fight war on terror

    Phased withdrawal

    Now that the panel has approved his nomination, the 63-year-old is likely to appear before the full Senate for a confirmation hearing later this week.

    U.N. Ambassador John Bolton To Step Down

    John Bolton, U.S. United Nations Ambassador gives a press briefing after a meeting on North Korea at the United Nations Security Council

    (CBS/AP) Unable to win Senate confirmation, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will step down when his temporary appointment expires soon, the White House said Monday.

    Bolton's nomination has languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than a year, blocked by Democrats and several Republicans. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a moderate Republican who lost in the midterm elections Nov. 7 that swept Democrats to power in both houses of Congress, was adamantly opposed to Bolton.

    In a statement, President Bush expressed "deep regret" at Bolton's decision and accused senators who blocked a vote by the full Senate on Bolton's confirmation of "stubborn obstructionism."

    "They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time," Mr. Bush said.

    Senate Democrats welcomed Bolton's departure.

    "President Bush has made the right decision in accepting Ambassador Bolton's resignation," said Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Reid said the president "should now nominate a U.N. Ambassador who is ready and willing to work with our allies around the world, and who understands the pressing need to change course in Iraq."

    Senator John Kerry, who lost the 2004 White House race to Mr. Bush, won't miss Bolton. The Massachusetts Democrat said America needs a U.N. ambassador who has "the full support of Congress." Kerry said Bush ought to pick a replacement who, in his words, "can put results ahead of ideology."

    The White House had argued in recent weeks that Bolton had demonstrated his value and professionalism in the job and deserved to be confirmed. But even a Senate still in Republican hands didn't have the numbers to make it happen, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

    Critics have questioned Bolton's brusque style and whether he could be an effective bureaucrat who could force reform at the U.N.

    "Ambassador Bolton failed to secure confirmation because of his criticism of the U.N. itself, his role in arms intelligence before the Iraq war, as well as his negotiating style," said CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk.

    "But by all accounts he grew into the job, negotiating support for some tough resolutions supporting the administration's position on North Korea and Iran," Falk said.

    Mr. Bush gave Bolton the job temporarily in August 2005, while Congress was in recess. Under that process, the appointment expires when Congress formally adjourns, no later than early January.

    The White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination last month. But with Democrats capturing control of the next Congress, his chances of winning confirmation appeared slight. The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, said he saw "no point in considering Mr. Bolton's nomination again."

    While Mr. Bush could not give Bolton another recess appointment, the White House was believed to be exploring other ways of keeping him in the job, perhaps by giving him a title other than ambassador. But Bolton informed the White House he intended to leave when his current appointment expires, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

    Mr. Bush planned to meet with Bolton and his wife later Monday in the Oval Office.

    "He served his country with extraordinary dedication and skill, assembling coalitions that addressed some of the most consequential issues facing the international community," the president said. "During his tenure, he articulately advocated the positions and values of the United States and advanced the expansion of democracy and liberty.

    "Ambassador Bolton led the successful negotiations that resulted in unanimous Security Council resolutions regarding North Korea's military and nuclear activities. He built consensus among our allies on the need for Iran to suspend the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium," Mr. Bush added. "His efforts to promote the cause of peace in Darfur resulted in a peacekeeping commitment by the United Nations. He made the case for United Nations reform because he cares about the institution, and wants it to become more credible and effective."

    Bolton, who pushed strongly for U.N. reform, has had strained relations with many in the U.N. Secretariat, led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and has repeatedly called for all top U.N. officials to leave when Annan steps down as U.N. chief on Dec. 31 and is replaced by Ban Ki-moon.

    "I think Ambassador Bolton did the job he was expected to do," Annan said Monday morning when asked about Bolton's resignation. "He came at a time when we had lots of tough issues from reform to issues on Iran and North Korea. I think as a representative of the U.S, government, he pressed ahead with the instructions he had been given and tried to work as effectively as he could."

    As late as last month, Mr. Bush, through his top aides, said he would not relent in his defense of Bolton, despite unwavering opposition from Democrats who view Bolton as too combative for international diplomacy.

    Hillary Clinton discussing presidential bid


    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is holding discussions about and interviewing potential campaign staff for a White House bid in 2008, sources say.

    Clinton, a Democratic senator for New York and former first lady, was re-elected to a six-year term in the Senate in a landslide last month.

    "She said before the election that after the election she would be considering a presidential run," said Howard Wolfson, a senior Clinton adviser. "Part of that process is seeking the advice and counsel of her colleagues in New York."

    Wolfson said the senator has been holding private conversations with New York Democrats concerning a White House bid.

    Another source close to Clinton told CNN she has begun interviewing potential campaign staff.

    One New York Democrat, who asked to not be named, said he was recently called by a senior Clinton team member. While it was not flatly said that Clinton had decided to run for president, "it was pretty clear," the source said.

    On Sunday, Clinton met New York's governor-elect, Eliot Sptizer, The Associated Press reported.

    "We just had a great, wide-ranging meeting on so many issues that affect the city, the state and the country," AP quoted Clinton as saying as she left the meeting at Spitzer's home in Manhattan.

    New York Sen. Charles Schumer, Clinton's Democratic colleague, told AP he would be meeting with Clinton in the next week.

    "She wants to sit down and talk next week, which we're going to do. It could be about legislation. I have no idea what it's about, and until we sit down and talk that's all I'm going to say about it," AP quoted Schumer as saying. "I think she'd make a very good president but let's wait and see. Everyone's sort of jumping the gun."

    A CNN poll taken two weeks ago showed the New York senator favored by 33 percent of people asked who they were "most likely to support for the Democratic nomination for president in the year 2008."

    Clinton was ranked first among 10 potential Democratic candidates. Second place for "likely" support was a statistical tie among Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (15 percent); former Vice President Al Gore (14 percent), who ran for president in 2000; and John Edwards (14 percent), Gore's running mate in 2000.

    Last week, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack announced he would seek the Democratic nomination. Indiana Democrat Sen. Evan Bayh announced Sunday he is considering running for the White House.

    Report: Rumsfeld Tried To Change Course

    (CBS) Just before his resignation, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to the White House proposing major policy shifts in Iraq, the New York Times reported Saturday.

    "In my view it is time for a major adjustment," Rumsfeld wrote, according to the text of the memo posted on the newspaper's website. "Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough."

    Rumsfeld sent the memo to the White House on Nov. 6, the Times reported. He resigned his position just two days later, and President George W. Bush nominated Robert Gates as his successor, saying "sometimes it's necessary to have a fresh perspective."

    With his constant and often-combative defense of the war in Iraq, Rumsfeld had been the administration's face of the conflict. As the war stretches into its fourth year, and the number of American casualties reaches 3,000, Rumsfeld became the prime target for its opponents.

    The Iraq war was the central issue of Rumsfeld's nearly six-year tenure, and unhappiness with the war was a major element of voter dissatisfaction on Election Day ・and the main impetus for Rumsfeld's departure. Even some GOP lawmakers became critical of the war's management, and growing numbers of politicians were urging President Bush to replace Rumsfeld.

    The memo, as it appears on the Times's website, does not mention or suggest Rumsfeld's imminent departure from the Pentagon.

    But Rumsfeld appears to have made a last-ditch effort to change the course of the war in Iraq with his memo to the White House.

    The Times reported that Rumsfeld was trying to launch a campaign to lower public expectations about the war and to give political cover for the Bush administration as it changed tactics.

    "Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) ・go minimalist," he wrote in the memo. "Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis. This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not 'lose.'"

    Rumsfeld's public statements and speeches have repeatedly panned calls for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq or a timetable for such a pullout, but, in the classified memo obtained by the Times, the Pentagon chief suggested both.

    "Publicly announce a set of benchmarks agreed to by the Iraqi Government and the U.S. ・political, economic and security goals ・to chart a path ahead for the Iraqi government and Iraqi people (to get them moving) and for the U.S. public (to reassure them that progress can and is being made)," is the first of the "Illustrative Options" in the memo.

    And, further down, Rumsfeld wrote, "Significantly increase U.S. trainers and embeds, and transfer more U.S. equipment to Iraqi Security forces (ISF), to further accelerate their capabilities by refocusing the assignment of some significant portion of the U.S. troops currently in Iraq."

    President Bush and Rumsfeld have both said over and over again that timetables will only empower the enemy and that troop levels will be determined by U.S. commanders in Iraq.

    Rumsfeld's memo also list several "less attractive options" for U.S. forces. They include:

  • Continue on the current path.

  • Move a large fraction of all U.S. Forces into Baghdad to attempt to control it.

  • Increase Brigade Combat Teams and U.S. forces in Iraq substantially.

  • Set a firm withdrawal date to leave. Declare that with Saddam gone and Iraq a sovereign nation, the Iraqi people can govern themselves. Tell Iran and Syria to stay out.

    Bush begins delayed talks on Iraq

    Mr Bush with Jordan's King Abdullah after talks in Amman

    US President George W Bush has begun a key summit with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki aimed at tackling Iraq's escalating violence.

    The meeting, planned for Wednesday, was postponed shortly after Mr Bush arrived in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

    The delay followed the leak of a memo casting doubts on Mr Maliki, prompting denials that he had snubbed Mr Bush.

    Thursday's meeting began as details emerged hinting the Iraq Study Group will recommend changes to US policy.

    President Bush is expected to give public support to Mr Maliki, but privately put pressure on him to take action against Shia militias, analysts say.

    The two are also expected to discuss moves to transfer more responsibility to Iraq's security forces.

    Under pressure

    The meeting comes as both men face pressure over the situation in Iraq and follows one of the bloodiest weeks in the country since the US-led invasion in 2003.

    Mr Maliki has been under enormous pressure at home not to meet President Bush, says the BBC's Jon Leyne in Amman.

    In protest against the planned meeting, the Iraqi political group loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr suspended its participation in the government.

    The group, which has 30 MPs and a handful of ministers, had been making the threat for some days and had called for Mr Maliki to call off the Jordan meeting.

    Mr Maliki has also been the subject of a leaked US memo, published in the New York Times on Monday, in which Mr Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, raised doubts about his ability to control sectarian violence.

    According to the Times, the 8 November memo said that while Mr Maliki's intentions seemed good, his capabilities were "not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into actions".

    Regional fears

    Mr Bush, meanwhile, is facing growing political pressure over the lack of progress in Iraq and the rising tide of violence, says the BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington.

    Even the White House acknowledges the violence has reached a new phase, though it still dismisses talk of a civil war, he says.

    Reports on Wednesday suggested that the US is planning to move more troops into Baghdad early next year in a bid to restore calm.

    But first comes the publication of the report from the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel set up to examine US policy on Iraq. The group will release its findings on 6 December, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

    The co-chairman of the group, Senator Lee Hamilton, said members had now reached a consensus - but did not give details.

    Initials reports suggest it will recommend the US military move from a combative to a supportive role, and also urge a regional conference involving Iran and Syria.

    King Abdullah of Jordan, who is hosting the Amman summit, has spoken out this week about his concern over the situation in Iraq.

    On Monday he warned that conflicts in the region - in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories - could spin out of control unless the international community took urgent action.

    Officials said his dinner meeting on Wednesday with Mr Bush focused on both the Iraq issue and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    "The king explained ... the need to make real progress on the Palestinian issue because regional complications and challenges are due to the Palestinian problem," the French news agency AFP quoted Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah al-Khatib as saying after the meeting.

    N.Y. mayor meets with dead groom's family


    NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg met Tuesday with the family of a man shot and killed by police early Saturday in an incident that has sparked community outrage and could lead to a federal investigation.

    Sean Bell, 23, was shot to death by police officers outside a Queens nightclub hours before he was to be married to the mother of his two children.

    Two others -- 31-year-old Joseph Guzman and 23-year-old Trent Benefield -- were seriously wounded in the incident.

    Bloomberg told reporters he met for an hour with Bell's family and fiancee to express his condolences and discuss the investigation of the incident.

    Community leaders have demanded to know why NYPD officers fired as many as 50 rounds -- one officer alone fired 31 shots -- at the unarmed group of men as they were leaving Bell's bachelor party early Saturday morning.

    "They are obviously feeling a terrible pain, and the one thing that they would like the mayor to say is the one thing the mayor can't say -- that there is nothing the mayor can do to bring back their son or their fiance," Bloomberg said of Bell's loved ones.

    Bell was pronounced dead Saturday at Jamaica Hospital in Queens. An autopsy showed he was struck four times in the neck and torso.

    As of Tuesday, Guzman remained in critical condition after being shot at least 11 times, and Benefield was in stable condition with three bullet wounds, said a representative of Mary Immaculate Hospital in Queens where the two are being treated.

    All five police officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave Sunday pending an investigation by the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown.

    Bloomberg said Brown's office was investigating the incident diligently and trying to determine whether a grand jury should be involved.

    "District Attorney Brown is the one who now has responsibility for trying to ascertain what happened," Bloomberg said.

    Bloomberg rejected claims that the incident was racially motivated, citing an NYPD policy against ethnic profiling.

    Many black leaders have said the victims, all African-American, were unjustly targeted because of their race.

    "There's no evidence that race had anything to do with it," Bloomberg said. "The police officers were as diverse as the people in the car."

    Federal law enforcement officials said the Justice Department was nearing the formal opening of a federal civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting.

    Justice Department officials acknowledged the matter remained under review and that federal authorities in Washington and New York continued to monitor events in the aftermath of the shooting.

    Officials declined to confirm that a decision to formally investigate the case could be announced as early as Tuesday or Wednesday.

    FBI officials asking not to be identified said they expected the Justice Department "very soon" to request agents for the federal probe.

    "Until that happens, this investigation is completely in the hands of the Queens district attorney," said one FBI official.

    The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division frequently investigates cases in which law enforcement actions taken against members of minority groups prompt complaints of police violations of federal civil rights statutes.

    Congress' Patience With Iraq Erodes

    (AP) Congressional leaders displayed eroding patience in the Iraqi government on Sunday, adding pressure on President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to find a faster path to peace when they meet this week.

    "It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq," Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a potential presidential contender in 2008, said in urging for a planned withdrawal of U.S. troops.

    "If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder — one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead," Hagel wrote in Sunday's Washington Post.

    As the U.S. involvement in Iraq surpassed the length of America's participation in World War II, lawmakers have dwindling confidence in the U.S.-supported Iraqi government. It was the deadliest week of sectarian fighting in Baghdad since the war began in March 2003.

    "I think what we've got to do is go around the Maliki government in certain situations," said Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, another possible presidential candidate. "Let's work with other groups, and let's get regional buy-in into this."

    Bush, after a NATO summit in Europe, plans to meet with al-Maliki on Wednesday and Thursday in Jordan. That summit, coupled with Vice President Dick Cheney's trip to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, is evidence of the administration's stepped-up effort to bring stability to the region.

    The host of the meeting, Jordan's King Abdullah, said Sunday the problems in the Middle East go beyond the war in Iraq. He said much of the region soon could become engulfed in violence unless the central issues are addressed quickly.

    The king said he was hopeful the leaders will find a way to reduce the level of violence.

    "We hope there will be something dramatic. The challenges, obviously, in front of both of them are immense," he said.

    Iraq's leaders promised Sunday to track down those responsible for the recent attacks, and al-Maliki urged his national unity government of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to curb the violence by stopping their public disputes.

    The Iraqi prime minister is under pressure from Shiite politicians loyal to the radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who have threatened to boycott parliament and the Cabinet if al-Maliki meets with Bush.

    "This is all political posturing. It's all red herring. It's an anti-threat. This is a very stable government," responded Iraq's national security adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie. He said he had no doubt the prime minister would meet with Bush in Jordan.

    As for Bush, some of the toughest criticism is coming from within his own party.

    "We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam," said Hagel, a combat veteran of that war. "Honorable intentions are not policies and plans."

    Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, called Iraq the worst U.S. foreign policy decision since Vietnam. He said Democrats do not have a quick answer and any solution must be bipartisan.

    "It is time to tell the Iraqis that unless they're willing to disband the militias and the death squads, unless they're willing to stand up and govern their country in a responsible fashion, America is not going to stay there indefinitely," Durbin said.

    That theme ・pressuring al-Maliki and his government ・seemed to unify Republicans and Democrats.

    "I think we're going to have to be very aggressive and specific with him," said Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., the incoming No. 2 GOP leader. "And if he doesn't show real leadership, doesn't try to bring the situation under control ・if, in fact, he becomes a part of the problem ・we're going to have to make some tough decisions."

    Yet Rep. Duncan Hunter, the outgoing chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the United States will win the conflict in the long run by supporting a free government in Iraq. Before any decisions are made on reducing U.S. troop levels, he said, more U.S.-trained Iraqi battalions should be moved into the heavy-fighting areas of Baghdad.

    "Saddle those guys up," Hunter said. "Move them into the fight."

    Durbin, Brownback and King Abdullah were on "This Week" on ABC. Lott appeared on "Fox News Sunday" and Hunter on "Meet the Press" on NBC. Al-Rubaie was on CNN's "Late Edition."

    Bush daughter purse-snatching talk of Argentina

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) -- Reports that an agile Argentine thief snatched the purse of one of the twin daughters of President Bush while U.S. Secret Service agents were nearby had local media in a buzz Wednesday.

    "Bush's bodyguards couldn't handle San Telmo purse-snatcher," read a headline on the Web site of official news agency Telam.

    Telam said a government source, who asked not to be named, confirmed reports regarding the robbery. Different local reports said the incident happened on Sunday or Monday.

    A law enforcement source briefed on the incident told CNN that Barbara Bush's purse was stolen while she was in Argentina with her twin sister, Jenna. But the source said that "at no point were the protectees out of visual contact and at no point was there any risk of harm."

    Barbara Bush, 24, who has the same name as her grandmother, the former first lady, was in a restaurant in the San Telmo neighborhood when her purse was taken, Telam reported.

    It was not clear whether she was wearing her purse at the time of the theft or whether she was in an open-air restaurant or indoors.

    Radio and television reporters flocked to the main square in the historic neighborhood -- known for its outdoor restaurants and tango performances -- trying in vain to find out in which restaurant the purse had disappeared.

    All they came up with were a couple shopkeepers who said they were just discovering that a young woman who had been in their shop in recent days may have been the first daughter.

    The U.S. Embassy in Argentina and the White House declined to comment on the reports, and Argentine police said no report had been filed with them.

    Officials at Argentina's interior ministry did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

    It was not known how long Bush's daughter had been in Argentina or why she was visiting. Some reports said she had been in neighboring Paraguay earlier, in an activity related with UNICEF.

    Poll: Clinton leads '08 Democratic pack, Kerry slips

    (CNN) -- Recently re-elected Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York is twice as popular as her nearest Democratic rivals in the 2008 presidential race, according to a new CNN poll.

    Clinton was favored by 33 percent of people asked who they were "most likely to support for the Democratic nomination for president in the year 2008."

    The poll, conducted by telephone Friday through Sunday by Opinion Research Corp., interviewed 530 registered voters who described themselves as Democrats or independents who lean to the Democratic Party. (Read the complete poll results -- PDF)

    Clinton was ranked first among 10 potential Democratic candidates.

    Second place for "likely" support was nearly even among Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois (15 percent), former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina (14 percent) and former Vice President Al Gore (14 percent), given the poll's margin of error or plus or minus 4 percentage points.

    Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee in 2004, lost support, dropping from 12 percent in late October to 7 percent in the latest poll.

    Worse news for Kerry: a majority of registered Democrats say they do not want to see Kerry win the party's nomination in 2008.

    Earlier this month, Kerry apologized for a "poorly stated joke," which he said was aimed at President Bush but was widely perceived as a slam on U.S. troops.

    At a rally for California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides at Pasadena City College, said: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

    Bush and other Republicans called on Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, to apologize to U.S. troops.

    Only 27 percent of registered Democrats say they don't want Clinton as the party's nominee -- just over half the of the 51 percent who said don't want Kerry to get the nomination a second time.

    Other potential candidates in single digits include retired Gen. Wesley Clark, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa.

    Vilsack, the first Democrat to take the initial legal steps toward a presidential campaign, registered "most likely" support by just 1 percent of those surveyed.

    The poll also asked 1,025 Americans about whether they support or oppose the war in Iraq, and found continued overwhelming opposition -- 33 percent in favor and 63 percent opposed.

    The most recent poll, conducted November 3-5, found 33 percent in favor and 63 percent opposed.

    The poll's sampling error on the war approval rating question is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

    Kerry Says He's Not Out Of The '08 Race

    Senator John Kerry (D-MA) at the Johns Hopkins University Center for the Study of American Government

    (AP) Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry insisted on Sunday his "botched joke" about President George W. Bush's Iraq policy would not undermine a possible White House campaign in 2008.

    "Not in the least," Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, said when asked if the furor over his comment had caused him to reconsider a 2008 race. "The parlor game of who's up, who's down, today or tomorrow, if I listened to that stuff, I would never have won the nomination."

    One of the Republican politicians mentioned in a crowded field for the White House, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said he would not make a decision until September ・a relatively late date in the campaign cycle ・to focus in the private sector on trade policies.

    "We have lots of time for personal ambition," the Georgia Republican said. "And I think an awful lot of this early energy is wasted, and we ought to be focusing on, you know, how are you going to compete with China and India, how are you going to solve the problem in Iraq?"

    Gingrich said Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom have set up presidential exploratory committees, were the likely front-runners of the Republican Party. But Gingrich said voters are yearning for a clearer conservative voice.

    "I think Mitt Romney has an opportunity to fill that," Gingrich said, referring to the outgoing Massachusetts governor.

    McCain said Giuliani was an "American hero" for his leadership in New York following the Sept. 11 attacks. But McCain called himself the best presidential candidate based on a "record of being a conservative Republican, of knowledge on national security and defense issues."

    McCain, who supports a ban on abortion except in cases of rape, incest and to save a mother's life, said he doubted a constitutional amendment could pass but that one would not be needed because "it's very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should ・could ・overturn Roe v. Wade." He was referring to the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a woman's right to abortion.

    The high court is deciding this term whether to uphold a 2003 federal law banning the procedure opponents call "partial-birth" abortion in a case conservatives hope could be used to reverse the landmark 1973 abortion-rights decision.

    At least two conservatives, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, have called on Roe to be overturned. Legal analysts have said if the court issues an anti-abortion ruling, justices would be more likely to impose restrictions rather than abolish the right.

    "I'm a federalist," McCain said. "Just as I believe that the issue of gay marriage should be decided by the states, so do I believe that we would be better off by having Roe v. Wade return to the states. And I don't believe the Supreme Court should be legislating in the way that they did on Roe v. Wade."

    McCain called the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays "very effective." He said he opposed gay marriage, but as to civil unions, "people ought to be able to enter into contracts, exchange powers of attorney, other ways that people who have relationship can enter into."

    Kerry said he would decide early next year whether to run for president.

    Shortly before the Nov. 7 elections that brought Democrats back into power in the House and Senate, Kerry retreated from public view following his remark to a college audience that young people might get "stuck in Iraq" if they do not study hard and do their homework.

    "This is over. This was a misstatement. All of us make them in life. You wish you could have it back, but you can't," the senator said Sunday.

    Kerry said Sunday he had made the decision to keep a low profile after the White House attacked the joke as insulting to U.S. troops and several Democrats called the comment a needless distraction before the pivotal congressional elections.

    "Since we had very close races, I made the decision to make certain that I didn't distract. The results speak for themselves," he said.

    On running in 2008, Kerry said he had not yet made a decision whether to set up an exploratory committee.

    "Right now, my focus will be what happened on election day," he said, citing a need to work toward solutions on Iraq, energy independence and health care. "The American people are waiting for us to lift up an enormous challenge."

    Both Kerry and Gingrich appeared on "Fox News Sunday." McCain was on "This Week" on ABC.

    Bush: Asia, U.S. must trade and fight terror together


    (CNN) -- President Bush stressed on Saturday the shared advantages of U.S.-Asia cooperation in trade and in fighting militant Islamic terrorism and a nuclear North Korea.

    "Asia is important to America because prosperity in our country depends on trade with Asia's growing economies," he said in his weekly radio address. The U.S. president is in Hanoi, Vietnam, attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.

    "Today, America's trade across the Pacific is greater than our trade across the Atlantic, and we need to continue opening up markets in this part of the world to American goods and services."

    The issue of global free trade has been a contentious one in the United States, with critics saying Americans lose jobs because they are unable to compete with cheaper labor and business costs overseas.

    Bush apparently addressed that criticism and reiterated his commitment to free trade.

    "As long as the playing field is level, America's farmers, small businesses, and workers can compete with anyone, so America will continue to pursue free and fair trade at every level with individual countries across whole regions and through the World Trade Organization," he said.

    Continuing his theme of challenges that the United States and Asia have in common and the necessity of joining forces to meet them, Bush cited terror attacks in Asia -- such as the 2005 attack in Bali, Indonesia, in which 19 people died and the 2004 attack on a ferry in Manila Bay that killed 100.

    "Asia is important to America because we face common threats to our security. The people of this region understand the terrorist threat because they have been targets of terrorist violence," he said, adding the terrorists' "stated goal is a radical Islamic empire stretching from Europe to Southeast Asia."

    Referring to a threat very close to home for Asians, Bush said that it was urgent that North Korea's nuclear weapons program be stopped.

    At the APEC meeting, Bush had endorsed a statement all 21 Pacific Rim members plan to issue to express their worries about North Korea's first nuclear test on October 9 and its missile launches in July.

    "Our nations are speaking with one voice: North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons programs, and we will not tolerate North Korea's proliferation of nuclear technology to hostile regimes and terrorist networks.

    "We will also continue working with Japan, China, South Korea, and Russia through the six-party talks," he said.

    Pelosi officially elected House speaker; Hoyer named No. 2

    Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., lost his bid to become House majority leader. Speaker of the House-elect Nancy Pelosi, right, backed him over Rep. Hoyer.

    Nancy Pelosi was unanimously elected today to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, but rank-and-file Democrats rejected her hand-picked choice for Majority Leader.

    In secret balloting, Rep. Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, Pelosi's longtime rival, was elected to the No. 2 position over Rep. John Murtha, of Pennsylvania. Murtha is a confidante of Pelosi and an early critic of the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq. Hoyer won 149 to 86.

    "Steny came out a big winner today, it was a stunning victory for him," Pelosi said in introducing Hoyer after the meeting. "We have had our debates in that room, and now that is over. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with us. Let the healing begin."

    Hoyer said he agreed that their divisions were behind them.

    "We may have differences from time to time, but the Republicans need to know, and the president needs to know, and the country needs to know, that our caucus is unified," Hoyer said.

    MORE COVERAGE: USA TODAY's Andrea Stone reports | Video

    Pelosi's selection as the first woman Speaker, which takes effect when the Democratic-controlled Congress convenes in January, makes her the most powerful female politician in the nation's history.

    "We made history and now we will make progress for the American people," Pelosi told the party caucus moments after her selection.

    She vowed that after 12 years in the minority, "we will not be dazzled by money and special interests."

    The vote for Majority Leader was the first test of Pelosi's leadership. She had weighed in heavily on Murtha's behalf, sending a letter of support to colleagues on Sunday and nominating him in today's closed-door caucus.

    "Steny was more where the mainstream of where the party was," said Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, who will become chairman of the House Financial Services Committee." Of Pelosi's endorsement of Murtha, Frank said, "She's a very smart woman who made an error in judgment."

    Murtha, who was Pelosi's campaign manager in an earlier leadership race against Hoyer, was an early critic of administration handling of the Iraq war. As a decorated Marine who fought in Vietnam, Murtha has close ties to the uniformed military leadership in the Pentagon.

    Pelosi, 66, had argued in her letter to colleagues that Murtha's public statements had galvanized opposition to the war, brought the issue to the forefront nationally and thereby helped Democrats win the House in Nov. 7 elections.

    But Murtha is also a controversial figure. He was investigated in 1980 as part of the Abscam bribery sting, but was the only lawmaker involved who wasn't charged criminally.

    FBI agents pretending to represent an Arab sheik wanting to reside in the United States and seeking investment opportunities approached Murtha and several other lawmakers with offers of bribes.

    When offered $50,000, Murtha is recorded as saying, "I'm not interested ... at this point." A grand jury declined to prosecute Murtha, and the House ethics committee issued no findings against him. On MSNBC Wednesday, Murtha said, "I told them I wanted investment in my district. They put $50,000 on the table and I said, 'I'm not interested."

    He has also been criticized by ethics watchdogs such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, who have said he exemplifies a "pay-to-play" culture of Washington. Opponents argue that his background is at odds with Pelosi's vow to make ethics reform a top priority.

    Hoyer, who had the Majority Leader job all but sewn up until Pelosi weigh in, claimed considerable support from some liberals uneasy over Murtha's opposition to abortion and gun control.

    Hoyer's backers also argued that the Maryland Democrat has been an able lieutenant to Pelosi, particularly in the drive to regain control of the House.

    Rumsfeld faces German legal test

    Donald Rumsfeld

    A lawyers' group has asked Germany to sue former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over alleged prisoner abuse in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

    The complaint was filed by the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of a Saudi man held in Cuba and 11 Iraqis held in Baghdad.

    German law allows the pursuit of cases originating anywhere in the world.

    State prosecutors have yet to decide whether to pursue the case. An earlier request for a case in 2004 was dropped.

    Michael Ratner, the centre's president, said he felt the case had a better chance of success now because Mr Rumsfeld was no longer in office and could not exert the same degree of "political pressure".

    He added that the centre had more evidence than it did in 2004, citing the case of a detained Saudi national, Mohamad al-Qahtani.

    "Al-Qahtani was a man who the US alleged is al-Qaeda, who is in Guantanamo. The entire torture log of al-Qahtani over a period of two months was exposed," Mr Ratner told the BBC.


    The Center for Constitutional Rights argues that Mr Rumsfeld was instrumental in abuses committed at Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

    The group of international lawyers alleges that Mr Rumsfeld personally approved the use of torture to extract information from the prisoners.

    Wolfgang Kaleck, the lawyer leading the attempt to bring the case, said former US Army Brig-Gen Janis Karpinski would be the "star witness".

    Ms Karpinski was commander of US prisons in Iraq when several prisoners were abused by US soldiers at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib facility.

    Mr Rumsfeld resigned on Wednesday following Republican losses to the Democrats in the US mid-term elections.

    The US denies any torture has taken place at Guantanamo Bay and has defended its interrogation techniques.

    Abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was brought to world attention after soldiers' photographs of the incidents were released and published.

    Ten US soldiers have been found guilty of abuses at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. The US says they were acting without official sanction.

    Pelosi Backs Murtha For Majority Leader

    Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., speaks at his campaign headquarters in Johnstown, Pa., Nov. 8. 2006.

    (CBS/AP) Rep. Jack Murtha, the 74-year-old Vietnam War veteran who stepped into the spotlight last year with his criticism of the war in Iraq, has picked up a major endorsement in his quest for a powerful leadership position on Capitol Hill.

    In a letter made public late Sunday, soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi backed Murtha ・a longtime ally ・for House Majority Leader, a post also sought by Rep. Steny Hoyer, who has been a rival of Pelosi's.

    "Your presence in the leadership of our party would add a knowledgeable and respected voice to our Democratic team," Pelosi wrote Murtha, who has been viewed as an underdog in the contest against Hoyer. "Your strong voice for national security, the war on terror and Iraq provides genuine leadership for our Party, and I count on you to continue to lead on these vital issues."

    The Democrats are expected to make their choice on Thursday.

    "I am deeply gratified to receive the support of Speaker Pelosi, a tireless advocate for change and a true leader for our party and our country," said Murtha, commenting on the endorsement. "Last Tuesday, the American people spoke and the message could not be clearer: we need a new direction."

    "It's time for Democrats to deliver and that's what I hope to do working side by side with Speaker Pelosi," Murtha continued. "If elected Majority Leader, we will implement the Democrats 6 for ・6 agenda and execute our Party's 100 Hour Plan to bring about the change our country needs."

    The Democrat's 100 Hour Plan includes a crackdown on lobbyists, an increase in the minimum wage, reducing interest rates on student loans, government negotiations with drug companies to reduce prices for Medicare patients, an expansion of stem cell research, and enactment of all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

    Hoyer has been number two in the Democratic leadership behind Pelosi for the past four years. He says he's still confident he will win the race.

    "Nancy told me some time ago that she would personally support Jack," says Hoyer, in a statement released by his office on Sunday. "I respect her decision as the two are very close."

    Murtha, a retired Marine who easily won re-election last week, made headlines last year when he said U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq.

    That statement led some critics to call him unpatriotic, while others praised him for his courage.

    Murtha says he's still pushing for most U.S. troops to be brought home from Iraq as soon as possible. He also supports leaving some troops on the periphery of Iraq to go in as needed.

    "The first thing we have to do is establish some truth about this whole thing. Second, we have to hold people accountable," Murtha said. "It's not a disaster for us to leave Iraq, it's a disaster for us to not have a policy."

    US 'open to Iran talks on Iraq'

    US troops on patrol in Baghdad

    The White House has indicated it will consider talking to Iran and Syria about the future of Iraq.

    Chief-of-staff Josh Bolten told the ABC network that President George W Bush would look at all the options when he meets a panel of advisers on Monday.

    The Iraq Study Group panel, due to give its recommendations by the end of the year, is believed to favour renewing contacts with Tehran and Damascus.

    In a speech on Monday, UK PM Tony Blair will call for them to be more involved.

    Iraq was a key factor in the Republican defeat in mid-term polls and US defence chief Donald Rumsfeld's resignation.

    Senior Democrats have urged the preparation for a phased pullout of US troops.

    Blair's speech

    Speaking on ABC's This Week programme, Mr Bolten - who as White House chief-of-staff is Mr Bush's closest aide - said "a fresh approach" was clearly needed on Iraq.

    Asked if he favoured the idea of including Iraq's neighbours, Iran and Syria, in discussions, Mr Bolten said all options would be considered.

    According to the office of Mr Blair, the UK prime minister will call for their greater involvement during a keynote speech in London's financial centre on Monday.

    An aide said Mr Blair would "make clear to Syria and Iran the basis on which they can help the peaceful development of the Middle East rather than hinder it; and the consequences of not doing so".

    Phased withdrawal

    The Iraq Study group, the bipartisan US task force asked by Congress to examine the effectiveness of policy in Iraq, is to meet Mr Bush at the White House on Monday.

    The panel, which is led by former US Secretary of State James Baker, reportedly thinks that "staying the course" is an untenable long-term strategy.

    It is said to have been looking at two options, both of which would amount to a reversal of the Bush administration's stance.

    One is the phased withdrawal of US troops, and the other is to increase contact with Syria and Iran to help stop the fighting.

    In his interview, Mr Bolten dismissed calls for a fixed timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

    The US military confirmed that three US soldiers had been killed in fighting in Iraq's Anbar province on Saturday.

    More than 2,800 US troops have died in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

    Meanwhile four British servicemen have been killed following a bomb attack on a patrol boat in southern Iraq.

    Another three suffered serious injuries in the incident, which took place during a routine patrol along the Shatt al-Arab waterway in Basra.

    Marine to receive Medal of Honor for Iraq heroism


    (CNN) -- President Bush announced on Friday that the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration, will be awarded posthumously to Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.

    In April 2004, Dunham was leading a patrol in an Iraqi town near the Syrian border when the patrol stopped a convoy of cars leaving the scene of an attack on a Marine convoy, according to military and media accounts of the action.

    An occupant of one of the cars attacked Dunham and the two fought hand to hand. As they fought, Dunham yelled to fellow Marines, "No, no watch his hand." The attacker then dropped a grenade and Dunham hurled himself on top of it, using his helmet to try to blunt the force of the blast.

    Still, Dunham was critically wounded in the explosion and died eight days later at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

    "As long as we have Marines like Corporal Dunham, America will never fear for her liberty," Bush said Friday as he announced that Dunham would receive the award. Bush spoke at the dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia.

    "His was a selfless act of courage to save his fellow Marines," Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Huff of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, was quoted as saying in Marine Corps News that April.

    "He knew what he was doing," Lance Cpl. Jason A. Sanders, 21, of McAllester, Oklahoma, who was in Dunham's company, was quoted as saying by Marine Corps News. "He wanted to save Marines' lives from that grenade."

    In various media accounts, fellow Marines told how Dunham had extended his enlistment shortly before he died so he could help his comrades.

    "We told him he was crazy for coming out here," Lance Cpl. Mark E. Dean, 22, from Owasso, Oklahoma, said in Marine Corps News. "He decided to come out here and fight with us. All he wanted was to make sure his boys made it back home."

    "He loved his country, believed in his mission, and wanted to stay with his fellow Marines and see the job through," Vice President Dick Cheney said when speaking of Dunham's heroism at a Disabled American Veterans conference in July 2004.

    The Scio, New York, native would have been 25 years old on Friday.

    In a letter urging Bush to honor Dunham with the Medal of Honor, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, called the Marine's actions "an act of unbelievable bravery and selflessness."

    Dunham's story was told in the book "The Gift of Valor," written by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Phillips.

    Dunham will be the second American to receive the Medal of Honor from service in Iraq.

    Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith was the other, honored for action near Baghdad International Airport in April 2003, in which he killed as many as 50 enemy combatants while helping wounded comrades to safety. Smith was the only U.S. soldier killed in the battle.

    Webb Takes Virginia, Dems Take Senate

    Senate candidate Jim Webb, center, pumps his fist as he is joined by Gov. Tim Kaine, D-Va., left, and former Gov. Mark Warner, D-Va., right, during election night in Vienna, Va.

    (CBS/AP) Democrats wrested control of the Senate from Republicans with an upset victory in Virginia, CBS News estimates, giving the party complete domination of Capitol Hill for the first time since 1994.

    Jim Webb's squeaker win over incumbent Senator George Allen gave Democrats their 51st seat in the 100-seat Senate, an astonishing turnabout at the hands of voters unhappy with Republican scandal and unabated violence in Iraq. Allen was the sixth Republican incumbent senator defeated in Tuesday's elections.

    The Senate had teetered at 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans for most of Wednesday, with Virginia hanging in the balance. Webb's victory ended Republican hopes of eking out a 50-50 split, with Vice President Dick Cheney wielding tie-breaking authority.

    The Associated Press contacted election officials in all 134 localities where voting occurred, obtaining updated numbers Wednesday. About half the localities said they had completed their postelection canvassing and nearly all had counted outstanding absentees. Most were expected to be finished by Friday.

    The new AP count showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236. Virginia has had two statewide vote recounts in modern history, but both resulted in vote changes of no more than a few hundred votes.

    An adviser to Allen, speaking on condition of anonymity because his boss had not formally decided to end the campaign, said the senator wanted to wait until most of canvassing was completed before announcing his decision, possibly by Thursday evening.

    The adviser said that Allen was disinclined to request a recount if the final vote spread was similar to that of election night.

    In an all-around banner election year for Democrats, voters frustrated about the direction of the country toppled Republicans at all levels of government in a searing rebuke of the status quo.

    "It was a thumpin'" President Bush told reporters at a White House news conference. "It's clear the Democrat Party had a good night."

    "Actually, I thought we were going to do fine yesterday," Mr. Bush said. "Shows what I know."

    The president, who spoke of spending his political capital after his re-election triumph two years ago, acknowledged, "As the head of the Republican Party, I share a large part of the responsibility."

    With power on Capitol Hill flipped, Mr. Bush faced the reality of both houses of Congress in the opposition's hands for the final two years of his presidency. He announced that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would step down, as Democrats have urged.

    The war in Iraq, scandals in Congress and declining support for Mr. Bush and Republicans on Capitol Hill defined the battle for House and Senate control, with the public embracing the Democrats' call for change to end a decade of one-party rule in Washington.

    "This new Democratic majority has heard the voices of the American people," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat in line to become the nation's first female speaker, adding that Americans placed their trust in Democrats. "We will honor that trust. We will not disappoint."

    With the GOP booted from power after a 12-year House reign, lame-duck Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., announced he will not run for leader of House Republicans when Democrats take control in January.

    "Obviously I wish my party had won," Hastert said in a statement that added he intends to return to the "full-time task" of representing his Illinois constituents.

    Her position atop the House all but assured, Pelosi said it may take "a couple of weeks" to determine the final division of power in the Senate but said that no matter the outcome "the numbers picked up by the Senate bode very well" for the Democratic agenda.

    By early afternoon, Democrats had captured 50 Senate seats, including Montana, and Republicans held 49. The battle for power came down to Virginia.

    "The votes are in and we won," Webb declared, claiming victory anyway, setting a transition team in motion and calling himself senator-elect.

    Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, according to CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger stands to gain power within the Senate, despite losing the Democratic primary in his re-election campaign. "If the congressional centrists are looking for a leader, it might be Joe Lieberman. The newly Independent senator could be courted by both Republicans and Democrats looking for votes," Borger said.

    However, the election results pose a difficult challenge for the president.

    "The challenge is that almost all moderate Republicans in the House and even some in the Senate are wiped out," said CBS News political consultant Norm Ornstein. "If you move to the middle, there are some Republicans you'll have to convince to move with you. Bush will also have to work with Democratic leaders who don't like him and don't trust him. And the feeling is mutual."

    Despite the Democrats' victory, Pelosi also faces a tough job.

    "These Democrats that were elected last night are conservative Democrats. They are not like some of the liberal firebrands in the House right now," CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer said. "So she has to bring those two groups together and make them a cohesive force, or else what you will see is a Republican president reaching out to the conservative Democrats and forming coalitions."

    Senate Democrats cheered the defeat of Republican senators in Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Montana.

    "This, of course, has been a very exciting time for us," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

    After an overnight vote count in Montana, Democrat Jon Tester rode to victory over Burns, a three-term senator whose campaign was shadowed by a series of self-made missteps and his ties to Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist at the center of an influence-peddling investigation.

    Tester held a lead of less than 3,000 votes over Burns with all precincts reported, according to CBS News estimates.

    "One hundred thousand miles and 15 hours later, here we did it," said Tester, a flat top-wearing organic farmer who lost three fingers in a meat grinder.

    In the House, Democrats won 230 seats, putting them on track for a 30-seat gain if trends held in remaining unsettled races, CBS News estimates.

    Without losing any seats of their own, Democrats captured 28 GOP-held seats. The party won in every region of the country and hoped to strengthen their majority by besting Republican incumbents in eight races that were too close to call.

    Aside from gains in Congress, Democrats took 20 of 36 governors' races to give them a majority of top state jobs ・28 ・for the first time in a dozen years. New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, Colorado, Maryland and Arkansas went into the Democratic column.

    In down-ballot races, Democrats gained a decisive edge in state legislatures, taking control of a number of bodies and solidifying their hold on others. With the wins, Democrats will be in a better position to shape state policy agendas and will play a key role in drawing Congressional districts.

    According to CBS News exit polls:

  • A majority of women ・56 percent ・voted for Democrats; 43 percent for Republicans. That is a bigger margin for the Democrats than in 2004 and 2002. Women made the difference in Missouri and Montana.

  • Washington scandals did not deter white Evangelical voters; 70 percent of them still voted Republican.

    Democrats Score First Senate Wins

    Democratic Senatorial candidate, Pennsylvania State Treasurer Bob Casey

    (CBS/AP) Ohio's and Pennsylvania's Senate races have given an early boost to Democrats as Sen. Bob Menendez held onto his seat in New Jersey.

    CBS News estimates that in Ohio, seven-term Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown has won over GOP Sen. Mike DeWine. The last time a Democrat won an Ohio Senate race was 1992. Brown won among voters of both genders, all age groups and all races in the Ohio.

    In Pennsylvania, CBS News estimates GOP Sen. Rick Santorum ・the third-ranking Republican in the Senate ・was defeated by his pro-life Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Robert Casey Jr.

    Among Democratic incumbents, only Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey was considered in any real danger. But until the end, he held a 48-43 percent edge over Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr., and came out on top, according to projections.

    But as polls close across the East and Midwest, the contentious Senate races in Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland and Missouri were too close to call.

    Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd retained his seat in West Virginia, and the first returns of the night made Rep. Bernie Sanders, an independent, a winner in the Vermont Senate race, succeeding retiring Sen. James Jeffords. Brooklyn-born with an accent to match, Sanders is an avowed Socialist who will side with Democrats when he is sworn into office in January.

    In preliminary exit polls in Virginia, Jim Webb ・a best-selling author, Vietnam Marine and former Republican ・was just ahead of the incumbent, Sen. George Allen. Once a long shot, Webb has made the race a toss-up. Allen was a presidential contender a year ago, but now he's fighting for his life after a series of campaign gaffes and errors.

    Also in Virginia, voters have passed an amendment banning same-sex marriage.

    The past few months have been an uphill battle for the Democrats, who must gain six seats to make a Senate majority. After significant gains by the Democrats against GOP incumbents this fall, they are knocking on the Senate door.

    "The wind is blowing very much for the Democrats, and it looks like a strong wind," said CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer.

    Democrats appealed to voter weariness with the war, GOP White House and recent corruption scandals as voters went to the polls to fill 33 of the Senate's 100 seats. Democrats need a net pickup of six seats to recapture the majority that they last briefly exercised in 2001-2002. Seventeen seats now held by Democrats and 15 seats now filled by Republicans, including the Tennessee post of retiring Majority Leader Bill Frist, are up for grabs.

    Conventional wisdom says the Democrats are well-positioned to pick up seats in Ohio, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. They are leaning behind in Tennessee, which was a toss-up a week ago. If they lose there and hold all their current seats, Democrats would then need to win all three remaining toss-ups: Virginia, Missouri and Montana.

    Meanwhile, Republicans' reign over the House of Representatives faced a serious challenge Tuesday as a surge of Democratic support sparked by voter outrage over the Iraq war and disapproval of President Bush and Congress gave Democrats a chance to regain a majority in the House for the first time since 1994.

    But while only one Republican candidate has a strong chance at booting out a Democratic incumbent, Republicans are guardedly optimistic that they will retain control ・barely ・as the votes come in.

    Other Senate wins include:

  • Democrat Thomas Carper Wins Delaware
  • Republican Olympia Snowe Wins Maine
  • Republican Trent Lott Wins Mississippi
  • Democrat Edward Kennedy Wins Massachusetts
  • Republican Richard Lugar Wins Indiana

    That said, anything could happen. So what are the races? CBS News' Gloria Borger reports that most eyes are on 10 battleground states, eight of which are currently held by Republicans.

    Keep in mind that Democrats last controlled the Senate in 2002. Republicans now control 55 seats in the 100-member chamber. Two independents, Sanders, and likely Connecticut winner Sen. Joseph Lieberman, will caucus with the Democrats and count toward Democratic tallies. If there's a 50-50 split in the Senate, Vice President Dick Cheney serves as the tiebreaker, meaning the majority leader and committee chairs would be Republican and any split-down-the-middle votes would be decided by Cheney.

    Undoubtedly, the night will have some surprises. Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl could be in for an unexpectedly close race, some observers say. So could Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow from Michigan. Some of the most intense races to watch:

  • Missouri Sen. Jim Talent is locked in a dead heat with his Democratic opponent. Exit polls show that Missouri voters are rating the economy as a very important issue in determining their vote. Polls during the past two weeks show Talent, a first-term Republican, narrowly trailing challenger Claire McCaskill, a former attorney and Jackson County prosecutor. CBS News reporter Steve Futterman met McCaskill while she was shaking hands with shoppers at a St. Louis supermarket. "It feels close," McCaskill told Futterman. "We are going to treat it like its close and we're going to campaign that way until 7 o'clock tomorrow night." The winner may not be known till long after that.

  • In Tennessee's race to replace Frist, Republican Bob Corker seems to be pulling away from Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. Corker leads by 12 points in the latest poll from the Chattanooga Times Free Press & Memphis Commercial Appeal. A steamy ad produced by the Republican National Committee made national headlines for its steamy ・and allegedly racist ・content. In the ad, a young white actress talks about meeting Ford, a 36-year-old bachelor who is black, "at the Playboy party." At the end of the ad, she winks and says to the camera, "Harold, call me." Both candidates denounced the ad as tacky, but the ad became the poster child for an especially dirty campaign season.

  • Lieberman is now leading securely in polls against cable executive and newcomer to the national political scene Ned Lamont, who won Connecticut's Democratic primary and caused the one-time presidential candidate to change parties.

  • In the battle for Maryland's open Senate seat, Democrat Ben Cardin, a Jewish U.S. Representative who had held a comfortable lead over Republican Michael Steele, a black Catholic Lt. Gov., now leads by just 3 points in the latest Mason-Dixon poll. A SurveyUSA poll shows the race even. This is a Democratic seat, so if Cardin loses, the Democratic hunt for the Senate gets harder.

  • Polls close at 9 p.m. in Rhode Island, where Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who had been written off by some observers, has narrowed the gap with Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse to 3 points in the latest USA Today/Gallup poll. A Mason-Dixon poll showed Chafee within one percentage point of Whitehouse.

  • The last of the big races close their voting booths at 10 p.m.. In Montana, where Republican Sen. Conrad Burns had been struggling, polls are inconclusive, either showing Burns and Democrat Jim Tester tied (Mason-Dixon), or Tester with a 9-point lead (USA Today/Gallup). Monday, a Burns spokesman dismissed the USA Today/Gallup poll as inaccurate and said the campaign was revoking one newspaper's credentials to attend Burns' election night event in Billings because it wrote about the poll.

    Army Times: 'Time for Rumsfeld to go'


    (CNN) -- An editorial to be published in an independent military publication Monday calls for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to be replaced.

    And the Pentagon is countering by saying the new "chorus of criticism" is "old news."

    The editorial will appear Monday in the four weekly publications that serve the four main branches of the U.S. military, according to the senior managing editor for Army Times Publications, the papers' parent company.

    It is owned by the Gannett Company, publisher of USA Today and many local U.S. newspapers.

    The editorial was posted Saturday on the Web sites of the four publications: Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and the Marine Corps Times. (Read the editorialexternal link)

    It reads: "It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads."

    The timing of the editorial's publishing was not prompted by Tuesday's midterm elections, said Army Times' editor Robert Hodierne.

    It was inspired by Bush statement this week that he wants Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney in their posts through the end of his term, the editor said.

    Swaying conservative voters "is not our aim," Hodierne told CNN on Friday.

    "Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large," the editorial states. "His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt."

    White House spokesman Tony Snow said the president was told about the editorial, and his reaction was to "shrug it off."

    Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman downplayed the "new chorus of criticism."

    [It] is actually old news and does not include commanders in the field, who remain committed to the mission," Whitman said.

    "The assertion, without evidence, that senior military officers are 'toeing the line' is an insult to their judgment and integrity," he added.

    Hodierne countered by saying that Rumsfeld has "lost the support and respect of the military leadership" considering "some of the public statements that military leaders are making."

    "... With their [other military leaders'] disagreements, added up with all of the other missteps we believe he's made, it's time for him to be replaced," Hodierne said.

    Whitman said Rumsfeld has always "clearly and accurately" described the challenges facing U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and that the "war on terror" will be a long struggle.

    "This country and the leadership of the Defense Department are going to ensure that our military forces have the resources to successfully carry out their mission, and to suggest otherwise is simply wrong," he said.

    This is the second time the military publications have urged Rumsfeld to vacate his post.

    In May 2004, when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke, an Army Times editorial said: "This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top."

    Army Times Publishing is the world's largest publisher of defense and military-related periodicals, Hodierne said.

    The four weekly newspapers, distributed in base convenience stores and commissaries around the world as well as delivered to subscribers, have a combined circulation of about 250,000.

    US reinforces troops in Baghdad

    Stryker vehicle in Baghdad

    US forces have taken up positions in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in the first visible sign that a new security plan is being implemented.

    At least 4,000 US troops are being deployed in an attempt to reduce sectarian killings and kidnappings.

    Fighting erupted overnight in Baghdad when US troops raided a mainly Shia district to make arrests.

    Gunmen killed six Iraqi soldiers and wounded 15 in an attack on a checkpoint on Monday near the city of Baquba.

    Gen John Abizaid, head of US Central Command, has said civil war may erupt if sectarian violence is not halted.

    The BBC's Paul Wood notes that this is the first time the generals are talking openly about the possibility of a civil war in Iraq.

    Officially 1,500 people were killed in July but this is actually down on the 3,000 a month in May and June, our correspondent says.

    While commanders in Baghdad see this as a sign of progress another interpretation is that there is now less scope for sectarian violence as so many people have fled their homes, he adds.

    Twenty thousand people became internal refugees in the last 10 days of July alone, according to official figures.

    Baghdad is increasingly becoming a patchwork of Shia and Sunni enclaves looking nervously out across barricades, our correspondent says.

    Extended stay

    American and Iraqi government troops seeking to make arrests at a house in the Sadr City area of Baghdad fought a gun battle with Shia militants on Sunday night.

    Two militants were killed and 18 people were wounded including civilians, Iraqi security force sources said.

    An AFP news agency journalist in Sadr City said the arrest operation was accompanied by air strikes.

    On Sunday, three US troops were killed by a roadside bomb south-west if Baghdad.

    Our correspondent says that while the Americans will not state publicly how many extra soldiers are coming to the capital it could be up to 7,000.

    'Vital deployment'

    US troops from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team were seen patrolling predominantly Sunni areas of the west of the city on Sunday.

    The brigade is named after the eight-wheeled Stryker armoured car, regarded as being better suited to urban terrain than conventional vehicles.

    They have spent the past year in the northern city of Mosul, and the Pentagon recently extended their tour of duty by four months.

    Gen George Casey, head of coalition troops in Iraq, said their deployment was vital to the strategy of defeating death squads and other insurgent groups.

    "Baghdad is clearly central to this effort," he said.

    "Our strategy is to remain on the offence. In co-ordination with the prime minister and leaders within the Iraqi security forces, we are modifying our operational concept."

    Correspondents say the deployment is being seen as an admission that a two-month-old security operation involving 50,000 mostly Iraqi troops around Baghdad had failed to curb the violence.

    Sen. Clinton says Rumsfeld should resign

    Sen. Hillary Clinton watches as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, center, General John Abizaid, left, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace, right, testify during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton called Thursday for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, hours after excoriating him at a public hearing over what she said was a "failed policy" in Iraq.

    "I just don't understand why we can't get new leadership that would give us a fighting chance to turn the situation around before it's too late," the New York Democrat told the Associated Press. "I think the president should choose to accept Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation."

    Clinton confronted Rumsfeld directly on Iraq and Afghanistan earlier in the day, and said his answers left her convinced he should go.

    "The secretary has lost credibility with the Congress and with the people. It's time for him to step down and be replaced by someone who can develop an effective strategy and communicate it effectively to the American people and to the world."

    For months, Clinton has resisted joining the chorus of other Democrats demanding Rumsfeld's ouster. Her remarks Thursday were the harshest assessment yet from the woman considered her party's early front-runner for the 2008 presidential nomination.

    The former first lady has come under attack from some in her own party for her 2002 vote for the war and her current opposition to a deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal.

    "I am frankly tired of hearing the same stories from the administration's national security team," Clinton told the AP. "The president changed his economic team, he changed his White House team — I think it's time for him to change his security and defense team."

    Clinton said her own view of the war has not changed.

    "What's been clear is that despite my being a constant and persistent critic of how the president has conducted the war, it has not achieved the goals that he has set," she said.

    Earlier in the day, the senator wasted no time going after Rumsfeld when he testified in a morning hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    "Under your leadership there have been numerous errors in judgment that have led us to where we are," the New York Democrat said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. "We have a full-fledged insurgency and full-blown sectarian conflict in Iraq."

    The defense secretary seemed briefly stunned by the intensity of her attack, exclaiming, "My goodness," before launching into a point-by-point defense.

    He rejected some of her specific criticisms as simply wrong and said the war against terror will be a drawn-out process.

    "Are there setbacks? Yes," said Rumsfeld. "Is this problem going to get solved in the near term? I think it's going to take some time."

    The testy exchange between Clinton and Rumsfeld came after a top general told the panel violence in Iraq is probably as bad as he's ever seen it and the country may be descending into civil war.

    "We hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the administration's strategic blunders — and frankly the record of incompetence in executing — you are presiding over a failed policy," she said. "Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?"

    Rumsfeld vehemently denied he'd ever glossed over the difficulties of the fighting in Iraq or elsewhere.

    "There's a track record here," countered Clinton. "This is not 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, when you appeared before this committee and made many comments and presented many assurances that have frankly proven to be unfulfilled."

    "Senator, I don't think that's true," Rumsfeld fired back. "I have never painted a rosy picture. I've been very measured in my words and you'd have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I've been excessively optimistic. I understand this is tough stuff."

    At that point, the Republican chairman of the committee, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, came to Rumsfeld's defense, saying his past comments had been balanced.

    Clinton still shied away from a demand made by a growing number of Democrats: a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

    The disagreement between the two extended to Afghanistan. The senator specifically faulted Rumsfeld for saying in 2002 that the Taliban was gone, noting that the extremist faction has grown stronger in recent months.

    He conceded violence has escalated in Afghanistan, but added, "Does that represent failed policy? I don't know. I would say not."

    The defense secretary said he expected the violence there to follow a seasonal pattern and decline as winter approaches.

    Pentagon raises spectre of Iraq civil war

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's relations with Congress have been testy at times and he occasionally has resisted testifying publicly on contentious subjects.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. military commander in the Middle East told Congress on Thursday that "Iraq could move toward civil war" if the raging sectarian violence in Baghdad is not stopped.

    "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I have seen it," Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said the top priority in the Iraq war is to secure the capital, where factional violence has surged in recent weeks despite efforts by the new Iraqi government to stop the fighting.

    A similar remark was offered by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the panel, "We do have the possibility of that devolving into civil war." He added that this need not happen and stressed that ultimately it depends on the Iraqis more than on the U.S. military.

    "Shiite and Sunni are going to have to love their children more than they hate each other," Pace said, before the tensions can be overcome. "The weight of that must be on the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government."

    President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have steadfastly refused to call the situation in Iraq a civil war, although Rumsfeld at a news conference on Wednesday acknowledged that the violence is increasing.

    The commanders' concessions about the threat of a civil war came just three months before congressional elections in which Bush administration policy in Iraq looms as a defining issue. Many voters have tired of the 3-year-old war, which has cost more than 2,500 U.S. lives and more than a quarter billion taxpayer dollars.

    Rumsfeld, who testified alongside Abizaid and Pace, did not comment directly on the prospect of civil war but said Iraq's future lay in the hands of Iraqis, beginning with a reconciliation process that has yet to get underway.

    "Ultimately the sectarian violence is going to be dealt with by Iraqis," Rumsfeld said.

    Under questioning by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Pace said he did not anticipate one year ago that Iraq would now be in danger of descending into civil war. Abizaid said it was obvious a year ago that sectarian violence was on the rise, and that Iraq's police forces did not develop as well as U.S. officials had expected.

    "It's vital that we turn this around," the general said.

    Abizaid also said under questioning that it was possible that U.S. casualties could rise as a result of the battle to contain sectarian violence in the capital.

    "I think it's possible that in the period ahead of us in Baghdad that we'll take increased casualties — that's possible," he said.

    Rumsfeld had said Wednesday he essentially was too busy to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee and would instead attend a private briefing with the entire Senate on Thursday. He changed his mind after hours of criticism and pressure from Senate Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who said the Pentagon chief should be accountable to the public by answering questions on the war.

    The Pentagon offered no reason for Rumsfeld's change of plans. Earlier, it had said the defense secretary has made an aggressive effort to meet with lawmakers regularly, including testimony at an appropriations hearing earlier this year and at other classified briefings.

    Rumsfeld's relations with Congress have been testy at times and he occasionally has resisted testifying publicly on contentious subjects, including the debate over whether high-level officials should be held accountable for the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.

    The Pentagon this week announced its decision to extend the tours of an Alaskan Army brigade to bolster security around a volatile Baghdad and push troop levels to roughly 135,000 — dashing the Bush administration's hopes of dropping the figure by tens of thousands by the fall congressional campaigns.

    Yet Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, said Thursday in Baghdad that his government is "highly optimistic that we will terminate terrorism this year. The Iraqi forces will take over security in all Iraqi provinces by the end of this year gradually, and if God's will, we will take the lead." After the comments, his staff sought to explain that Talabani was referring to the beginning of a "process" for Iraqis to assume control, not the final step.

    Democrats in Washington have highlighted the Army readiness issue as an example of the administration's mishandling of the war. They urged the president this week to begin by the end of the year pulling troops out of Iraq.

    Bush consistently has said there will be no such pullout until the fledgling Iraqi government can secure its position and Iraq's security forces can defend the country. Republicans have backed their GOP president on the issue, but have acknowledged their frustration with the length of the war and the delayed homecomings.

    "That's a very difficult thing for us," said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, of the Pentagon's decision to keep in Iraq some 3,500 members of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Wainwright in Alaska.

    In a letter to Bush released Monday, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate said they believed the war was overtaxing the military and failing to calm the sectarian violence.

    Bush undergoes annual physical exam

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush's doctors pronounced him healthy and in better shape than most men his age Tuesday, but the president himself seemed a little upset about packing on some extra pounds.

    Doctors treated a small precancerous lesion on his left arm but indicated it was nothing serious. They told him to use sunscreen and wear a hat.

    Bush got the works at his annual physical. It took more than four hours and was conducted by a team of nine doctors, overseen by White House physician Richard Tubb and Kenneth Cooper, the president of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. The group included skin, hearing, heart, eye and sports medicine specialists.

    "I find him to be fit for duty and have every reasonable expectation that he will remain fit for duty for the duration of his presidency," they said in a written statement.

    Before leaving the National Naval Medical Center in suburban Maryland, Bush — an avid mountain biker who is known to be intensely interested in his fitness level — homed in on the negative.

    "I'm doing fine. My health is fine. I probably ate too many birthday cakes," said the president, who celebrated his 60th birthday on numerous occasions last month.

    The scale showed Bush at 196 pounds. He was 191.6 pounds at his exam last July. The physical also found the president shorter by a quarter of an inch, at 5 feet 11½.

    A December 2004 physical showed Bush had gained six pounds since the summer of 2003 — a development he blamed on eating too many doughnuts during his re-election campaign. The gain prompted Bush to a renewed commitment to exercise and fitness. He was rewarded last July with a loss of eight pounds.

    Then came this year's addition.

    "My guess is, he's determined to lose it," said White House press secretary Tony Snow.

    A four-page medical summary that accompanied the brief doctor's statement said Bush remains in the "superior" fitness category for a man of his age, in the 99th percentile.

    The doctors used liquid nitrogen to freeze "a small actinic keratosis," a precancerous lesion, on his left arm. Other non-cancerous skin growths were noted but not treated. The medical summary indicated the president has skin lesions consistent with sun damage and recommended that he use sunscreen and wear a hat.

    Bush's overall cholesterol count is at a healthy level, dropping slightly to 174 from 178. There was a small rise in his high-density lipoprotein (HDL) count, or "good" cholesterol, and a smaller increase in his low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol.

    The president's medical profile shows a low to very low risk of coronary artery disease. His resting pulse rate dropped to 46 beats per minute from 47. Well-trained athletes typically have resting pulse rate of between 40 and 60 beats per minute.

    Doctors made Bush run on a treadmill for more than 26 minutes as part of a test that evaluates the performance of his heart. His heart beat reached 179 beats per minute; no signs or symptoms of cardiovascular problems were noted.

    "I'll direct you toward the text, but he's still healthier than we are," Snow told a roomful of reporters.

    Other information from Bush's checkup included:

    •His body fat percentage rose to 16.8 from 15.79.

    •His ability to see at a distance worsened a little, from 20/20 in both eyes to 20/30 in his right and 20/25 in his left. He uses reading glasses at times to see more clearly up-close. The doctors also noted floaters in his eyes, a normal sign of aging that seldom affect vision.

    •He has experienced no recurrence of occasional reflux of stomach acid bouts.

    •His six-day-a-week exercise regimen remained about the same: pedaling his mountain bike at up to 18 miles an hour for 15 miles to 20 miles a week; doing low-impact "hill work" on a treadmill; and free weight resistance training and stretching.

    •He smokes a cigar now and then, drinks coffee and diet sodas and takes a daily multivitamin but does not routinely take any prescription medication.

    After his physical, Bush met with 27 military men and women at the hospital, and presented Purple Hearts to seven of them.

    Rice seeks speedy Mid-East truce

    US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the US will seek a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Lebanon crisis this week.

    Earlier, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said there should be "maximum pressure" for a UN resolution to end the attacks.

    Israel has agreed a 48-hour halt to air strikes in Lebanon while the deaths of 50 civilians at Qana are investigated.

    More than 30 children died in Sunday's attack, the deadliest Israeli raid since hostilities began on 12 July.

    Speaking after talks with Israeli officials in Jerusalem, Ms Rice said the US will call for UN Security Council action on a comprehensive settlement.

    She said it will comprise three parts: "a ceasefire, the political principles that provide for a long-term settlement and the authorisation of an international force to support the Lebanese army in keeping the peace."

    "As I head back to Washington, I take with me an emerging consensus on what is necessary for both an urgent ceasefire and a lasting settlement," Ms Rice said.

    "I am convinced we can achieve both this week," she added.

    Earlier, Mr Blair, on a trip to the US, said he was optimistic of the chances of an end to hostilities.

    While calling for "maximum pressure" to get the Security Council resolution passed, he also called for "maximum restraint" in the region and welcomed Israel's 48-hour ceasefire in the south to allow the deaths at Qana to be investigated.

    Suspension in force

    There were Israeli air strikes in eastern Lebanon early on Monday, but Israel said they came before its suspension came into effect.

    Israeli jets carried out two raids near Yanta, 5km (three miles) from the Syrian border, at 0130 (2230GMT Sunday), Lebanese security sources told the Associated Press.

    An Israeli army spokesman told AP that the flights over southern Lebanon were only suspended from 0200 (2300GMT).

    Israel's ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, told the BBC the suspension would allow time for a probe and for civilians to leave the area.

    "We're doing this in order to allow a full investigation into what happened in Qana, " he said, "and also in order to create a window for the UN to evacuate people from southern Lebanon, who want to leave southern Lebanon."

    Retaliation pledge

    However, Israel is reserving the right to take action against any targets it says are preparing attacks against it.

    Bush 'apology' over bomb flights

    Tony Blair and George Bush at the White House

    US President George Bush has apologised to Tony Blair over the use of Prestwick Airport to refuel planes carrying bombs to Israel, Mr Blair's spokesman says.

    The spokesman said Mr Bush gave a "one-line" apology for the fact proper procedures had not been followed.

    The two men held talks in the US on Friday over the Middle East crisis.

    Some air traffic controllers at Prestwick, near Glasgow, have raised concerns about handling flights carrying bombs.

    The result of an investigation into the Israeli-bound bomb cargo flights is expected to be made known on Monday.

    The Civil Aviation Authority has been conducting an inquiry into the landings, which the Foreign Office believes may have broken rules.

    Briefing reporters after the discussions, Mr Blair's official spokesman told reporters: "President Bush did apologise for the fact that proper procedures were not followed, but that was all.

    "It was just one line. As part of the introduction, the president said sorry there was a problem.

    "It was a gracious thing to do."

    'Very uncomfortable'

    BBC Scotland has learned that staff were unhappy about dealing with the US planes because flight plans appeared to mention that there were bombs on board.

    Some of the 200 air traffic controllers said they were "very uncomfortable" handling certain aircraft.

    Unions have considered an approach to the management as a result.

    One air traffic controller, who did not want to be identified, said: "We usually don't know the cargo that is on board but for some reason this one's flight plan was brazenly advertising it was carrying bombs.

    "People are very uncomfortable with that.

    "We usually don't have time to worry about what's on board but there is a feeling that this is not good.

    "We work with military aircraft all the time and people here are professional.

    "They would never leave traffic that needs to be dealt with but there are people who feel uncomfortable working with certain aircraft."

    The Foreign Office's concern is a matter of procedure because the cargo does not appear to have been notified as it should have been.

    Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has raised concerns with the US Government.

    Following Mrs Beckett's open display of displeasure over the flights issue, a White House spokesman said he was sure procedures were in order.

    Immediate ceasefire

    First Minister Jack McConnell is under pressure to prevent further arms shipments using Scottish soil.

    His office said aviation and foreign policy were matters reserved to Westminster.

    Backbenchers have urged Mr Blair to push for an immediate ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah.

    A senior Scottish Labour MP said the prime minister must stop defying public opinion over the crisis in Lebanon.

    Mohammed Sarwar, who is chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster, said he was "really disappointed" in the government for refusing to call for a ceasefire.

    The Glasgow Central MSP also said it is "totally unacceptable" that US planes used a Scottish airport while carrying bombs to Israel and said it must not happen again.

    Democrats launch 'Six for '06' agenda

    Party unveils campaign themes, says elections will be about Bush

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate's top Democrat says 1994's "Contract with America," the Republican campaign agenda the year the GOP regained control of Congress -- was an "urban myth."

    "The 'Contract with America' didn't accomplish anything," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. "(It) didn't change the election at all."

    Republicans signed the 10-point plan with fanfare on the steps of the Capitol before they took control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

    Yet, even as Reid dismissed the "Contract with America," he and other Democrats were promoting their own election-year document of six broad legislative goals, called "Six for '06."

    Democrats insist most of this year's campaigns -- 75 percent -- will be a referendum on President Bush.

    But they also realize they have to give voters a reason to vote for them, not just against Republicans.

    "Its closing the deal," said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

    The document, which carries the title "A New Direction for America," is a brief compilation of six themes Democrats have been pushing in various ways all year:

  • National security
  • Jobs and wages
  • Energy independence
  • Affordable health care
  • Retirement security
  • College access for all
  • "This 100 days is about drilling in the different direction we as Democrats will take this country," said Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

    Republicans: Democrats are 'flailing'

    Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign, said Democrats are "flailing in their desperate attempt to demonstrate that they have a plan and are unified."

    "Their plan is really to raise taxes, increase spending and weaken important tools that protect Americans in the war against terror," he said.

    Absent from the Democratic proposal is the catchphrase "culture of corruption," which Democrats constantly used against Republicans after the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. It became less prominent after some Democratic lawmakers' legal troubles made headlines.

    But Schumer insisted it will be "woven through" their overall push for change in Washington.

    After having a joint lunch to discuss campaign strategy during the August congressional recess, House and Senate Democrats rallied in a park across the street from the Capitol and tried to portray an air of confidence and momentum.

    "We don't see anything down the road that is really in our way in terms of doing well," Schumer said. "The wind is at our back."

    15 seats

    Emanuel said that their polls show 12 Democratic candidates currently ahead of Republican incumbents.

    However, neither he nor Schumer would predict how many seats Democrats will pick up. They need 15 seats to take control of the House.

    At a meeting with reporters at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee headquarters, Democratic leaders unveiled a Web video with clips of the president saying "stay the course" interspersed with graphics such as "gas prices at an all time high."

    They played the video on a small laptop in the front of the room full of reporters because, they said, they couldn't find a screen projector.

    Hillary Clinton: 'It's the American dream, stupid'

    Senator evokes husband's winning 1992 slogan


    DENVER, Colorado (Reuters) -- New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible White House contender in 2008, said Monday the Bush administration had hurt working Americans, and Democrats must offer new ideas to strengthen the middle class.

    "Americans are earning less while the costs of a middle-class life have soared," Clinton told the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, a group that aided her husband Bill Clinton's rise to the presidency in 1992 but has clashed in recent years with the party's more liberal wing.

    "A lot of Americans can't work any harder, borrow any more or save any less," she said in unveiling the group's "American Dream Initiative." The package contains proposals to make college and home ownership more affordable, help small businesses, improve retirement savings and expand health insurance coverage.

    Clinton said President Bush and Republicans had "made a mess out of the country's finances." Rewriting her husband's famous 1992 campaign slogan, "It's the economy, stupid," she declared: "It's the American dream, stupid."

    The yearlong initiative headed by Clinton was designed to give the party new ideas for midterm elections in November and for the White House race in 2008.

    Clinton said she hoped the agenda would "unite Democrats and help elect Democrats" in November, when the party must pick up 15 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate to regain control of Congress.

    "This plan will make the basics of life in the middle class -- health care, education and retirement -- affordable for those who take responsibility," Clinton said.

    "These ideas will make sure every American will get a fair wage, access to college and home ownership and a path out of poverty and into the middle class," she said.

    Two other possible 2008 presidential contenders, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, also addressed the conference of 375 elected Democratic officials from 42 states.

    "Everybody in the country understands what this administration has done wrong," Vilsack said. "It is important now for this country to understand what we need to do that's right."

    Bayh said Democrats needed to reach out to the middle class if they wanted to reclaim control of Congress.

    Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz rejected the Democratic claims about the economy.

    "Only liberal Democrats like Hillary Clinton could attack an economy that has produced 5.4 million jobs in the last three years, grew 5.6 percent in the first quarter, increased payroll employment in 47 states and is the envy of the industrialized world," he said.

    While much of the agenda covers familiar Democratic territory, it adds some flourishes. An "American Dream Grant" would award money to states based on attendance and graduation from state colleges, while American Dream Accounts would enhance retirement savings and federally funded $500 "baby bonds" would be issued to each child born in America.

    It also includes a commission to evaluate corporate subsidies and new rules to rein in federal spending.

    The agenda is one of several packages of Democratic ideas floated by party groups and leaders who have yet to rally around a single party-wide agenda similar to the successful Republican "Contract with America" in 1994.

    Voting Rights Act Ready For Bush Pen

    Senate Votes 98-0 To Extend 1965 Civil Rights Law By 25 Years


    (AP) The 1965 Voting Rights Act that opened voting booths to millions of minorities won a 25-year extension from Congress Thursday after Republicans put it on a fast track, hoping to improve their standing with minorities before the fall election.

    The legislation, approved 98-0 by the Senate after last week's overwhelming House passage, now goes to President Bush for his signature.

    The Senate vote came after Bush told the NAACP earlier in the day that he looked forward to signing the legislation.

    "It's a lot easier to change a law than to change a human heart," Bush said. "I understand that many African-Americans distrust my political party."

    A centerpiece of the 1960s civil rights movement, the law ended poll taxes, literacy tests and other election devices that had been used for decades to keep blacks from voting.

    "The Voting Rights Act has worked. It has achieved its intended purpose," said Majority Leader Bill Frist, who timed the Senate's debate to occur while Bush made his first-ever address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

    The House passed the bill last week 390-33 with opposition mostly from Southern lawmakers who objected to renewing a law that requires their states win Justice Department approval before changing any voting rules ・punishment, they said, for racist practices decades in the past.

    Some also objected to provisions that require jurisdictions with large populations of non-English-speaking citizens to print ballots in languages other than English.

    Several Southern senators echoed the concerns of their House counterparts, but there were few obstacles to passage in that chamber.

    "Is this the very best that we can do at this time? Yes, it is," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

    The nine states required to win Justice Department approval for any voting practice changes are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia

    Others senators showered the law with praise for its successes. The act was still necessary, proponents said, pointing to congressional hearings that showed certain districts still make it harder for minorities and citizens with limited understanding of English to be informed when they cast ballots.

    The effect of the law "has been profound, to put it mildly," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., whose panel a day earlier approved the renewal, 18-0.

    "It will not remove all discrimination by any means," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "But it is a major step to let everybody in the country know that all of us ・all of us ・are equal as Americans with equal rights, no matter the color of our skin."

    Two senators did not vote: Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

    The legislation would renew several provisions of the law set to expire next year. They include one requiring jurisdictions with large populations of voters who do not speak English to print ballots in several languages and provide other assistance.

    Some lawmakers had complained that the policy discourages people from learning English. But House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said that most people who need the assistance were born here and deserve the help.

    Bush uses veto on stem cell bill

    President Bush at the White House after vetoing the legislation

    US President George W Bush has vetoed a controversial bill which would have lifted a ban on federal funding for new embryonic stem cell research.

    It was the first time in his presidency that Mr Bush refused to sign into law a bill approved by Congress.

    "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it," he said on Wednesday.

    Polls suggest most Americans back the research, which scientists hope will lead to cures for serious illnesses.

    Supporters of the research say the technique offers hope for people suffering degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and for diabetes.

    The House of Representatives later failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds vote needed to overturn Mr Bush's veto.

    In waiting until the fifth year of his presidency to veto any legislation, Mr Bush became the first president to complete four years in office without a veto since John Quincy Adams in the 1820s.

    'Not spare parts'

    Mr Bush has said he is against the use of public funds for research involving the destruction of human embryos.

    He has also consistently opposed embryonic research on moral grounds.

    Mr Bush announced his decision at the White House in the company of 18 families whose children were born after using embryos "unwanted" by other couples seeking fertility treatment.

    "This bill would support the taking of innocent human life of the hope of finding medical benefits for others," the president said.

    "Each of these children was still adopted while still an embryo and has been blessed with a chance to grow, to grow up in a loving family. These boys and girls are not spare parts."

    Emotional debate

    The BBC's James Coomarasamy, in Washington, says that whatever the scientific implications of this action, it will certainly find favour among many of Mr Bush's socially conservative Republican supporters.

    The stem cell debate seems set to be an issue in November's mid-term congressional elections.

    Attorney General: Bush blocked eavesdropping probe


    WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation of the anti-terror eavesdropping program that intercepts Americans' international calls and e-mails, administration officials said Tuesday.

    Bush refused to grant security clearances for department investigators who were looking into the role Justice lawyers played in crafting the program, under which the National Security Agency listens in on telephone calls and reads e-mail without court approval, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Without access to the sensitive program, the department's Office of Professional Responsibility closed its investigation in April.

    "It was highly classified, very important and many other lawyers had access. Why not OPR?" Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, the committee chairman, asked Gonzales.

    "The president of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales replied.

    Later, at the White House, spokesman Tony Snow said the eavesdropping program is reviewed every 45 days by senior officials, including Gonzales. The president did not consider the Justice unit that functions as a legal ethics watchdog to be the "proper venue," Snow said.

    "What he was saying is that in the case of a highly classified program, you need to keep the number of people exposed to it tight for reasons of national security, and that's what he did," Snow said.

    Yet, according to OPR chief Marshall Jarrett, "a large team" of prosecutors and FBI agents were granted security clearances to pursue an investigation into leaks of information that resulted in the program's disclosure in December. Justice Department inspector general Glenn A. Fine and two of his aides were among other department officials who were granted clearances, Jarrett said in an April memo explaining the end of his probe. That memo was released by the Justice Department Tuesday.

    The existence of the eavesdropping program outraged Democrats, civil libertarians and even some Republicans who said Bush overstepped his authority.

    A group of 13 prominent legal experts wrote lawmakers last week that the Supreme Court's recent decision striking down military commissions for detainees at the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba "strongly supports the conclusion that the president's NSA surveillance program is illegal."

    Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-New York, who requested the Justice Department investigation, said he and other lawmakers were preparing a letter to Bush asking him to allow the probe to go forward. "We can't have a president acting in a dictatorial fashion," Hinchey said.

    Gonzales insisted Tuesday that the president "has the inherent authority under the Constitution to engage in electronic surveillance without a warrant."

    Still last week, under a deal with Specter, Bush agreed conditionally to a court review of the warrantless eavesdropping operations.

    Bush's 2001 directive authorized the National Security Agency to monitor -- without court warrants -- the international communications of people on U.S. soil when terrorism is suspected. The administration initially resisted efforts to write a new law, contending that no legal changes were needed. But after months of pressure, officials have grown more open to legislation.

    Under the deal with Specter, the president agreed to support a bill that could submit the program to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a constitutional review.

    Last week, Gonzales said the bill gives Bush the option of submitting the NSA program to the intelligence court, rather than requiring the review. Specter said Tuesday Bush assured him he will seek the court review if the legislation passes without significant amendment.

    Critics of the legislation have called it a fig leaf that would give congressional blessing to a legally suspect program. "The so-called compromise reached by Senator Specter and the White House does nothing to establish a check over the administration's warrantless surveillance program," said Bruce Fein, a former Justice Department official in the Reagan administration.

    Bush Expletive Overheard At G-8

    President Bush, at G-8 summit, St. Petersburg, Russia 7-17-06

    (CBS/AP) It wasn't meant to be overheard. Private luncheon conversations among world leaders, picked up by a microphone, provided a rare window into both banter and substance including President Bush cursing Hezbollah's attacks against Israel.

    Mr. Bush expressed his frustration with the United Nations and his disgust with the militant Islamic group and its backers in Syria as he talked to British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the closing lunch at the Group of Eight summit.

    "See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh*t and it's over," Mr. Bush told Blair as he chewed on a buttered roll.

    CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante reports Mr. Bush also told Blair that he expects Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to go to the Middle East soon.

    The unscripted comments came during a photo opportunity at the lunch. The leaders clearly did not realize that a live microphone was picking up their discussion.

    The president also bluntly expressed his frustration with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, telling Blair, "I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone and call (Syrian President Bashar) Assad to make something happen."

    CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod says the open microphone only made public the reality that had been emerging in private: the lack of agreement on the best way to stop the violence in the Mideast is raising tensions among the leaders who are trying to come up with a plan.

    The open mic caught Mr. Bush chatting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and expressing amazement that it will take Putin and an unidentified leader just as long to fly home to Moscow as it will take him to fly back to Washington. Putin's reply could not be heard.

    "You eight hours? Me, too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country. Takes him eight hours to fly home. Not Coke, diet Coke. ... Russia's big and so is China. Yo Blair, what're you doing? Are you leaving?" Mr. Bush said.

    The president thanked Blair for a gift of a sweater and joked that he knew Blair had picked it out personally. "Absolutely," Blair responded, with a laugh.

    Mr. Bush, a stickler for keeping to his schedule, could also be heard saying, "We have to keep this thing moving. I have to leave at 2:15. They want me out of here to free up their security forces."

    Mr. Bush also told a staffer that he didn't need speech notes.

    "No, I'm just going to make it up as I go along," Mr. Bush said. "Some of these guys talk too long."

    This wasn't Mr. Bush's first awkward live mike moment.

    During the 2000 campaign for president against Al Gore, Bush took a look around at a stop in Naperville, Illinois, and spotted a New York reporter he didn't like.

    "There's Adam Clymer major-league a------ from the New York Times," Mr. Bush grumbled.

    "Yeah, big time," replied Cheney, in an exchange neither man appeared to intend for public consumption, although that's exactly where the words wound up.

    World Leaders Urge Israeli "Restraint"

    (AP) resident Bush joined world leaders Sunday in urging Israel to show some restraint after four days of steady bombing against its neighbor Lebanon.

    "Our message to Israel is, look, defend yourself but as you do so be mindful of the consequences, so we've urged restraint," Bush said.

    World leaders opened their first working session at the Group of Eight summit Sunday, expressing confidence they would emerge with a consensus position calling for peace - despite differing views on who shares the blame.
    "The international community must address the root causes" of the violence taking place in the Mideast, Bush said as the leaders prepared for their first working session at the summit.

    "This started because Hezbollah decided to capture two Israeli soldiers and fire hundreds of rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon," Bush said. "That's the cause of the crisis."
    British Prime Minister Tony Blair, sitting with Bush for a bilateral meeting on the summit's sidelines, said everyone is going to work hard to find a common solution. "We all want the situation to calm down," Blair said.

    The only way to stop the hostilities, Blair said, is to address the root causes - the extremists backed by Iran and Syria. "We should be able to agree on a position," he said.
    French President Jacques Chirac said the G-8 nations would call for a show of moderation of all parties involved and for a lasting cease-fire in the Middle East.
    "We share the same views of issues at stake here in the Middle East," Chirac said as he ended a separate one-on-one meeting with Bush.

    Yet Bush and Chirac have taken different views of the violence. Chirac has questioned whether Israel's response to the capture of its soldiers went too far, while Bush has placed blame squarely on Hezbollah and the nations that back it and has declined to call for a cease fire.
    Israeli warplanes began striking Lebanon after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers Wednesday in a cross-border raid into Israel. The bombings continued into Sunday, as Hezbollah fired barrages of rockets ever deeper into Israel.
    The death toll rose above 100 in Lebanon, and stood at 15 in Israel.

    Bush described the escalation of violence as "a moment of clarification" that should show the world how Hezbollah is disrupting the peace process.
    "It is a moment that requires all of us to work together and send a clear message, not only to Hezbollah, but to the Iranians who financed Hezbollah and to the Syrians who house Hezbollah," Bush said.
    But as they began their meeting, Bush and Chirac tried to present a united front.
    Referring to his relationship with Bush, Chirac said he was pleased that "our approach to problems is relatively similar."

    Bush thanked Chirac for France's leadership in helping pass U.N. Security Council resolution 1559 last year, which demands that Syria withdraw from Lebanon and that militias there disarm - a reference to Hezbollah. Hezbollah has refused to disarm as demanded by the resolution, saying it is a resistance movement.
    Bush said he was confident that other leaders would look to the spirit of the resolution as they deal with the cause of the problems in the Middle East - which he identified as Hezbollah and its connections to Iran and Syria.
    Chirac said he and Bush agreed that U.N. resolutions had to be applied, and that "all forces which threaten and endanger the security, stability and sovereignty of Lebanon must be stopped."

    Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said the U.S. was pressing for a summit statement identifying Hezbollah as the main culprit and emphasizing the importance of maintaining a democratic Lebanon.
    Italian Premier Romano Prodi expressed caution on a joint statement.
    The Israel-Lebanon crisis and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea moved to the top of the agenda for the first G-8 summit to be held in Russia.
    "We, the Russian side, regret ... that on the eve of the G-8 ... we see an escalation of the situation in the Middle East," Russian President Vladimir Putin, the summit host, said at a midnight news conference.
    Putin had molded this year's G-8 summit to showcase his country's re-emergence on the world stage after a devastating economic collapse in 1998, hoping to focus on energy security, the fight against infectious diseases.
    However, he failed to win a much-anticipated agreement with the U.S. on Russia's admission to the World Trade Organization, the 149-nation group that sets the rules for world trade. The United States is the only country that has not signed off on Russia's membership in the WTO, and Bush dashed Putin's hopes for getting in now.

    Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi met with Putin ahead of the summit and asked for Moscow's support

    But Putin offered a lukewarm reply, saying that while he understood Japan's position, he hoped the U.N. Security Council would be able to work out the proper response, according to Japanese delegation officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

    Cheney sued in CIA identity case

    Dick Cheney

    A former CIA officer whose identity was leaked to the media is suing US Vice-President Dick Cheney.

    Valerie Plame is suing Mr Cheney, his ex-aide Lewis Libby and presidential adviser Karl Rove, saying they tried to destroy her career.

    Ms Plame's name appeared in the media in 2003 after her husband criticised the Bush government over Iraq.

    A spokesman for Mr Rove, Mark Corallo, said the allegations were "utterly without merit".

    Mr Libby has been charged with perjury and obstructing justice in connection with the leak. He has resigned pending trial but denies the charges.

    It was revealed last month that Mr Rove would not be charged over the leak.


    Ms Plame's name had appeared in an article written by columnist Robert Novak about a week after her husband, ex-US ambassador Joseph Wilson, said in the New York Times that the government had twisted intelligence to go to war in Iraq.

    The CIA had sent Mr Wilson to Niger in 2002 to find out whether then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium from the African country.

    Mr Wilson reported there was no truth in the claim but it still appeared in President George W Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.

    Ms Plame and Mr Wilson, who is also suing, accuse the three named officials and 10 others of putting their lives and the lives of their children at risk.

    "This lawsuit concerns the intentional and malicious exposure by senior officials of the federal government of [Ms Plame], whose job it was to gather intelligence to make the nation safer and who risked her life for her country," it says.

    The couple say the officials violated their constitutional and privacy rights in order to "punish" Mr Wilson for his comments.

    The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation and punitive damages as well as legal costs.

    Mr Corallo said of the lawsuit: "Without even having had a chance to review the complaint, it is clear that the allegations are absolutely and utterly without merit."

    A spokeswoman for Mr Cheney, Lea Anne McBride, said he would make no comment as the matter was "before the courts".

    Novak has refused to name the source who gave him Ms Plame's identity.

    But on Wednesday he said Mr Rove had confirmed her employment when asked.

    Novak also said that after he agreed to give prosecutors investigating the case the name of his sources, they already knew them.

    Mr Libby is the only official to face charges over the leak.

    He is accused of lying to a federal grand jury and the FBI about when he learned of Ms Plame's identity and what he told the media.

    Mr Libby has said he was too busy with matters of national security to carry out a vendetta against Ms Plame.

    President Bush in Germany visit

    President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush arrive in Rostock

    US President George W Bush has arrived in Germany for a two-day visit en route to the G8 summit in Russia.

    The visit is the first by the president since German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to power last year.

    The two leaders are expected to discuss the Middle East, Iran's nuclear programme and North Korea's missile tests during the trip.

    Security has been tightened as thousands of anti-US protesters prepare to demonstrate against the visit.

    On Thursday, Mr Bush will spend part of the day in the former East Germany, where Mrs Merkel grew up, in her parliamentary constituency of Stralsund.

    The BBC's Tristana Moore in Berlin says the fact Mr Bush has been invited to Stralsund is being seen as a sign of the close personal relationship between the two leaders.

    Mrs Merkel has already visited Washington twice since coming to power, and analysts say the US has become Germany's most important partner outside of the EU.

    Businesses closed

    Security in the area has been stepped up for the US president's visit, which Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said created a "serious security situation".

    "We are taking it seriously, and everything has been done for this visit to go well," he told reporters in Berlin.

    The historic Old Town in Stralsund has been cordoned off, and businesses inside the cordon will close for the day on Thursday.

    Some local residents have complained that the security restrictions remind them of life under the former Communist government.

    Residents have been forced to move their cars out of the centre and everything from bicycles to flower pots have been ordered inside, the Associated Press news agency reports.

    Officials are preparing for a number of anti-US demonstrations during Mr Bush's visit.

    Some 12,000 police officers are expected to be on high alert with helicopters patrolling the skies.

    US in $80m 'Cuba democracy' plan

    Fidel Castro seen on 9 June

    US President George W Bush has approved an $80m (」43m) fund towards boosting democracy in Cuba.

    The president said the fund would help the Cuban people in their "transition from repressive control to freedom".

    The fund is part of proposals put forward by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which is considering a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.

    A draft version of the proposals, released last week, drew strong criticism from Cuban officials.

    In a statement, the president said: "I approved a Compact with the People of Cuba, which outlines how the United States will support the Cuban people as they transition from the repressive control of the Castro regime to freedom and a genuine democracy.

    "The report demonstrates that we are actively working for change in Cuba, not simply waiting for change," the statement said.

    Strained relations

    The report also includes other measures such as enforcing sanctions already in place against the communist regime and 'providing uncensored information' for Cubans who want change.

    The Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba includes US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez on its panel.

    Ties between the US and Cuba have steadily become strained since Fidel Castro took power in 1959 and the two nations have not had diplomatic ties since then.

    Cuban leader Fidel Castro turns 80 in August.

    US 'finds Iraq killing failings'

    Blood spattered walls of a bedroom at the reported scene of the Haditha shooting

    US marine officers at all levels failed to investigate conflicting reports of killings in the Iraqi town of Haditha, a report quoted by US media says.

    The report has been completed and reviewed by Lt-Gen Peter Chiarelli, the second-ranking US commander in Iraq.

    Twenty-four civilians died in the incident in November. The US military initially said they were killed in a bomb blast and exchange of fire.

    But reports subsequently emerged alleging that US soldiers killed them.


    Gen Chiarelli's investigation is separate from a second, criminal inquiry into whether a group of marines was guilty of murder.

    A number of women and children were among those killed in an incident that has become the most serious allegation against US troops in Iraq since the invasion.

    Gen Chiarelli's inquiry looked into how the military handled the killings on 19 November.

    According to US media reports, Gen Chiarelli has found that senior officers failed to investigate inconsistencies in the initial reports, which suggested the civilians were victims of a roadside bombing.

    The New York Times quoted defence department officials as saying Gen Chiarelli concluded "that some officers were derelict in their duties".

    The Pentagon has not commented on the media reports.

    The officers are said to have ignored contradictory evidence, such as death certificates listing the cause of death as gunshot wounds and compensation payments that were made to the victims' families.

    One official has spoken of false and late reporting.

    It is not clear which officers have been implicated or what punishment they might face.


    Gen Chiarelli has passed his findings and recommendations to the leading US commander in Iraq, Gen George W. Casey.

    A US military official told the Associated Press news agency the Chiarelli investigation "essentially bolsters the ongoing criminal investigation and lays bare some of the administrative faults that existed during November 2005".

    He added: "What some of these people did wrong is certainly not illegal or criminal, but administratively their actions are something that Gen Chiarelli wants to look at."

    The findings may be made public over the next two weeks, he said, although material that could affect the criminal investigation would be withheld.

    The Haditha inquiry is just one of a number the US military has been conducting into incidents of alleged unlawful killings by US forces in Iraq.

    Haditha has drawn comparisons with the Vietnam War massacre at My Lai in 1968.

    Veteran faces Iraq murder charges

    US marines in Iraq

    A former US soldier has been arrested and charged with killing four Iraqi civilians after raping one of them, the US Justice Department said.

    Prosecutors say Steven Green, 21, and other troops raped a young woman before killing her and three relatives in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, in March.

    A military inquiry into the incident is the latest in a series into alleged abuses by US troops in Iraq.

    Mr Green, a former army private, was arrested recently in North Carolina.

    He faces a possible death penalty if convicted.

    Shots heard

    A statement from the US attorney in Kentucky says Mr Green is charged with going to a house near Mahmoudiya with three other people to rape a woman living in the house.

    He allegedly shot and killed a man, a woman and a five-year-old girl and after raping another woman, he is alleged to have shot and killed her, the statement said.

    According to an affidavit, Mr Green took the family into a bedroom, from where shots were heard.

    "Green came to the bedroom door and told everyone, 'I just killed them. All are dead," the statement says.

    Another affidavit said Mr Green, who belonged to the 502nd Infantry Regiment, had been discharged from the army "due to a personality disorder" before the rape and killings were known about, the Associated Press news agency reported.

    The suspects belong to the same unit as two soldiers kidnapped, tortured and killed by insurgents south of Baghdad last month.

    Some reports suggested that this event may have spurred soldiers to come forward with information about the killings.

    Mr Green is due to appear in court at a detention hearing in Charlotte, North Carolina, on 10 July.

    War on terror ruling worries GOP Senators

    Senate Majority Whip Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, left, speaks as Chairman of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, listens during a taping of NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Two Republican senators said Sunday that Congress must rein in the Supreme Court ruling that international law applies to the Bush administration's conduct in the war on terror.

    Thursday's Supreme Court decision embracing Article 3 of the Geneva Accords in the military commission case of Osama bin Laden's former driver strikes at the heart of the White House's legal position in the war on al-Qaeda.

    Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the second-ranking GOP leader in the Senate, said the 5-3 court decision "means that American servicemen potentially could be accused of war crimes.

    "I think Congress is going to want to deal with that," McConnell said on NBC's Meet the Press. He called the ruling "very disturbing."

    The Geneva Convention's Article 3 is "far beyond our domestic law when it comes to terrorism, and Congress can rein it in, and I think we should," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., assigned as a Reserve Judge to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals. Graham spoke on "Fox News Sunday."

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also expressed concern about the decision, saying it "is somewhat of a departure, in my view, of people who are stateless terrorists."

    Article 3 mandates standards of treatment in cases of armed conflicts not of an international character in the territory of a contracting party, which Afghanistan is.

    Article 3 prohibits outrages upon personal dignity, "in particular humiliating and degrading treatment," and bars violence, including murder, mutilation and torture.

    McConnell wants Congress to deal with the Geneva Accords issue at the same time it addresses another aspect of the court's ruling overturning President Bush's military commissions created to try a limited number of detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

    "I don't think we're going to pass something that's going to have our military servicemen subject to some kind of international rules," said McConnell.

    Addressing the commission issue, McCain and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Congress might pose broader changes than the White House wants in trials of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

    As a starting point for debate, McCain said Congress should embrace the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the bedrock of military law protecting the rights of accused soldiers. The Bush administration has sidestepped the code for nearly five years in dealing with Guantanamo Bay prisoners it has classified as enemy combatants.

    Specter said that "we have to reconcile" what the Bush administration thinks it can do and what the Supreme Court decision says.

    Specter spoke on CBS' Face the Nation and McCain appeared on ABC's This Week.

    Many Republicans in Congress say detainees in the war on terror should not have the same legal protections as those in the military and that Congress should give its imprimatur with little or no change to the Pentagon's military commissions.

    McCain agreed that justice afforded to enemy combatants "shouldn't be exactly the same as applied to a member of the military." He added, however, that the Uniform Code of Military Justice is "a good framework.

    "Using the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, we can make sure that bad guys — and there are bad guys — are not released and those who deserve to be released will be," said McCain, a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict.

    McCain and Specter added their voices to that of Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner, R-Va., who says he is uncertain Congress should pass legislation to create new military tribunals.

    "Everybody says, 'Pass legislation, pass legislation,' but we've got to make certain it's needed, and then do it with careful analysis, to get it right," Warner told The New York Times on Friday.

    The Supreme Court said Bush's military commissions violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949. Under military commission rules, the court noted, such panels may block an accused and his civilian lawyer from ever learning of evidence the prosecution presents that is classified. In addition, commissions can permit the admission of any evidence it deems to have probative value to a reasonable person.

    US investigates new Iraq killings

    US soldier in Iraq

    The US military has opened a criminal investigation into the alleged killing of an Iraqi family by US soldiers.

    Little official detail has been given, but unnamed officials say the inquiry includes the alleged rape of one of the victims before she was killed.

    The investigation began on Saturday and follows an initial military inquiry.

    The probe is the latest in a series of inquiries into alleged abuse of Iraqis by US troops.

    The US Army's Criminal Investigation Command was asked to look into the incident after a preliminary military inquiry found reason to open a criminal probe, the military said in a statement in Baghdad.

    'No stone unturned'

    The criminal investigation was ordered a day after two soldiers said they had heard about the incident in the area of Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, on 12 March, the statement said.

    Unnamed officials said that at least two soldiers from the 502nd Infantry Regiment were being investigated to find out if they had been involved in allegedly raping an Iraqi woman, killing her and three other family members - including a small child, and burning her body.

    "The investigation just cracked open. We're just beginning to dig into the details," said US military spokesman Major Todd Breasseale.

    "We're not going to leave any stone unturned," he said.

    Two soldiers from the same regiment were captured, mutilated and killed earlier this month.

    Some reports suggested that this event may have spurred the soldiers to come forward with information about the alleged killings.

    Some reports said the military were aware of the killings, but had initially blamed them on sectarian violence.

    Mahmudiya is a small town in a mixed Sunni and Shia area south of Baghdad, in an area where insurgents operate, sectarian attacks are common and many US soldiers have died in combat in the last two years.

    Bad publicity

    This is the fifth investigation in recent months into allegations of killings of civilians by American forces in Iraq, but the first to allege rape.

    Last Thursday, seven marines and a sailor were charged with murder over the death of a disabled Iraqi man in Hamdaniya in April.

    Earlier in the week murder charges were filed against four soldiers over the shooting of three male Iraqi prisoners near Tikrit in northern Iraq on 9 May.

    Another Pentagon inquiry is looking into an alleged massacre at Haditha last November, in which 24 civilians are thought to have been killed.

    Correspondents say the Hamdaniya and Haditha cases have generated a huge amount of unfavourable publicity for the marines and concern within the corps about the conduct of some in Iraq.

    Bush says he'll work with Congress on tribunal plan

    Frist says he'll introduce bill to authorize military commissions


    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Thursday he will "conform with the findings" of the Supreme Court that strongly limit his power to conduct military tribunals for suspected terrorists imprisoned at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Bush made his comments during an appearance with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The court's ruling was released while the two leaders were meeting, and the president said he had not been able to review the decision fully.

    "To the extent there is latitude to work with the Congress to determine whether or not the military tribunals will be an avenue in which to give people their day in court, we will do so," Bush said.

    He also said that the "American people need to know that this ruling, as I understand it, won't cause killers to be put out on the street."

    "One thing I'm not going to do, though, I'm not going to jeopardize the safety of the American people," Bush said, adding, "I understand we're in a war on terror, that these people were picked up off of a battlefield."

    He said the White House will work with lawmakers, with some senators seeing "a way forward with military tribunals in working with the United States Congress."

    Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee said Thursday afternoon that he would introduce legislation after the Fourth of July break that would authorize the military tribunals.

    "To keep America safe in the war on terror, I believe we should try terrorists only before military commissions, not in our civilian courts," Frist said.

    Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, already has offered to work with the White House to draft legislation that would allow the administration to try the Guantanamo detainees before a military tribunal.

    "The court said that military commissions would be proper if Congress blessed those commissions -- that the president by himself could not do this, that he had to come to Congress and get the Congress to bless the military tribunal." Graham said.

    "I agree with that. I think it would be better off if the Congress and the White House work together to pass a statute that would allow these terrorists to be tried in a military court."

    Guantanamo will not close immediately

    White House spokesman Tony Snow reiterated Bush's position that he wants to close the Guantanamo holding facilities, according to The Associated Press, but not until the administration establishes a system to determine what to do with the prisoners.

    "This will not mean closing down Guantanamo Bay," Snow said, according to the AP. "There is nothing in this opinion that dictates closing down Guantanamo Bay. We're studying very carefully what other implications there may be."

    The court's 5-3 ruling effectively means officials will either have to come up with new procedures to prosecute at least 10 detainees awaiting trial or release them from military custody. (Full story)

    At the center of the dispute is a Yemeni man, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, accused of ties to Osama bin Laden. Officials said he has admitted to being the al Qaeda leader's driver and bodyguard.

    The case was a major test of Bush's authority as commander in chief in a wartime setting.

    Bush has aggressively asserted the power of the government to capture, detain and prosecute suspected terrorists in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

    Democrats hail ruling

    Democratic lawmakers praised the Supreme Court's decision as a rebuke to the Bush administration and a check on its aggressive expansion of executive power.

    "The justices have given our system a constitutional tonic that is sorely needed if we are to counter terrorism effectively, efficiently and with American values," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a statement. "This decision is a triumph for our constitutional system of checks and balances. I commend the justices for acting as a much needed check."

    Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat and ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, also lauded the ruling.

    "Since 9/11, the Bush administration has operated in the 'fog of law' -- expanding executive branch power, ignoring the will of Congress, bypassing courts and disregarding international law," Harman said in a statement.

    "Today's Supreme Court decision will help lift that fog. The opinion makes clear that the president's power is not unlimited when it comes to holding people without due process."

    Bush blasts 'terror funds' report

    Bundles of US dollars

    The US president has accused US newspapers of hampering the "war on terror" by publishing details of a secret scheme to track money transfers.

    George W Bush defended the scheme and said the disclosure was "disgraceful".

    The New York Times revealed last week the US government had monitored global money transfers using a banking group.

    The paper said it acted in the public interest. It is now the focus of a fierce debate about press freedom, says the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington.

    Some right-wing politicians have even called for the New York Times' editors to be charged with treason - but our correspondent says this is unlikely to happen.

    The newspaper has a long record of opposition to President Bush and has won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing a secret US government scheme to monitor telephone calls as part of its "war on terror".

    Mr Bush's attack was echoed by his deputy, Dick Cheney, who said the New York Times had twice disclosed secret programmes in defiance of the advice of administration officials.

    'Follow their money'

    Last week the New York Times, followed by other news organisations, revealed that the CIA had been given access to payment records in the world's main financial clearing house.

    The paper said the government had used its powers of administrative subpoena following the 9/11 attacks to compel Swift (the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) to open its records, but added that the move had led to the arrest of al-Qaeda members.

    Mr Bush said the disclosure had made it "harder to win this war on terror".

    "We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America. And for people to leak that programme and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America," he said.

    Mr Bush said the monitoring scheme was lawful and Congress had been made aware of it.

    "If you want to figure out what the terrorists are doing, you try to follow their money," he said.

    The Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security said earlier that the New York Times should be prosecuted for the publication.

    "The New York Times is putting its own arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda before the interests of the American people," , Peter King told Fox News television.

    US Treasury Secretary John Snow and White House officials also criticised the revelations last week.

    'No risk'

    The New York Times' executive editor, Bill Keller, said the paper had listened "patiently and attentively" to the government's case against revealing the scheme.

    US pair charged over Iraqi death

    US soldiers in Iraq

    Two US soldiers have been charged over the shooting of an unarmed man near the Iraqi city of Ramadi.

    Specialist Nathan Lynn was charged with voluntary manslaughter, and both he and Sgt Milton Ortiz Jr will face charges of obstructing justice.

    The men are accused of helping another soldier place a rifle next to the body of the dying man.

    The US is currently investigating a series of alleged offences, with eight servicemen charged last week.

    They could face the death penalty over charges of premeditated murder in the town of Hamdaniya.

    Other investigations have taken place into deaths in Haditha, Ishaqi and Tikrit.

    Guard duty

    The latest charges relate to the death of a man near the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi in February.

    The Iraqi man died after shots were heard outside a house where US troops were questioning Iraqis, the US military said, where Spc Lynn stood guard.

    However, troops did not spot the rifle next to his body until later, arousing suspicions.

    Sgt Ortiz was also charged with assault for a separate incident on 8 March, when he allegedly placed a weapon against the head of an Iraqi man and threatened to have him imprisoned.

    The Pentagon said the men would be transferred to a base in Baghdad, where they would be given access to lawyers and prepare to face so-called Article 32 hearings to decide whether they should face a court-martial.

    Families deny US terror plot link

    Warehouse scene of terror raids

    Relatives of seven men arrested over an alleged plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and attack FBI offices have been protesting the group's innocence.

    Marlene Phanor, sister of one of the accused, said they have been unfairly dubbed terrorists and that they were victims of US scaremongering.

    According to the charges, the men, five from the US and two from Haiti, hoped to wage a "full ground war" on the US.

    Officials said the men were foiled at an early stage and posed no danger.


    US Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales said the group of "home-grown terrorists" were inspired by "a violent jihadist message".

    "They were persons who for whatever reason came to view their home country as the enemy," he told reporters.

    A federal indictment says they were conspiring to "levy war against the United States".

    According to charges brought against the men, the group, aged 22 to 32, had sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda, but had no contacts with it.

    They have been charged with conspiring to blow up both the Sears Tower and the FBI building in North Miami Beach.

    They were arrested at a warehouse in Miami, during an undercover operation after their group was infiltrated by an agent posing as an al-Qaeda member

    'Trying to scare'

    Mr Gonzales said the lack of direct link to al-Qaeda did not make the group any less dangerous.

    "Today terrorist threats come from a smaller, more loosely defined cells not affiliated to al-Qaeda," he said.

    "Left unchecked these home-grown terrorists may prove as dangerous as groups like al-Qaeda."

    However, Ms Phanor, sister of Stanley Grant Phanor, one of those arrested, denied that her brother had any terror links.

    "They're labelling him something that he's not," she told Miami's WSVN TV station. "He's... no terrorist; he's in a religious group that's trying to support the community."

    "It's all a show, they're scaring people, there's nothing to be scared at all," Ms Phanor told the AFP news agency.

    'Boot camp'

    Neighbours in Miami's poor Liberty City area said the men apparently slept in the warehouse where they were arrested.

    "They would come out late at night and exercise. It seemed like a military boot camp they were working on there. They would come out and stand guard," said Tashawn Rose.

    However a man claiming links to the arrested men told the news channel CNN that they were a peaceful religious group, who studied Allah at the warehouse.

    Schwarzenegger rejects request for more troops

    California governor says Guard would be stretched too thin


    SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this week rejected a request from the Bush administration to send an additional 1,500 National Guard troops to the Mexico border, the governor's office confirmed Friday.

    The National Guard Bureau, an arm of the Pentagon, asked for the troops to help with the border-patrol mission in New Mexico and Arizona.

    Schwarzenegger said the request would stretch the California's National Guard too thin in case of an emergency or natural disaster.

    Schwarzenegger spokesman Adam Mendelsohn confirmed the governor's decision Friday after two California National Guard officials revealed it to The Associated Press.

    Mendelsohn said the governor believed sending more troops would create an inappropriate burden on the state and disrupt the guard's training schedule.

    The overall deployment for the border mission will remain at 6,000 soldiers.

    On June 1, Schwarzenegger agreed to send the California National Guard to the Mexico border to help the federal government's effort to curb illegal immigration.

    That ended a 17-day standoff with the Bush administration over whether the state would join the border patrol effort and who would pay for it.

    California has committed to putting 1,000 troops on the border by July 31 and has 250 there already.

    Schwarzenegger initially criticized the administration's plan to deploy troops to the border, saying it was the wrong approach to dealing with illegal immigration.

    The governor finally relented after the Pentagon signed a document promising to pay for the entire mission, a cost that could top $1.4 billion nationally.

    Schwarzenegger also wanted the Bush administration to commit to a firm end date.

    It did not, but Schwarzenegger signed an executive order saying he would not authorize the deployment beyond the end of 2008.

    Hungary inspires Iraq, Bush says

    Mr Bush in Budapest

    US President George W Bush has cited Hungary's thirst for freedom as an inspiration to Iraq.

    On a visit to Budapest to mark 50 years since an uprising against Soviet rule, Mr Bush said Hungary represented "the triumph of liberty over tyranny".

    Iraqis, he said, would take inspiration and "draw hope" from Hungary's success.

    Hungary 1956 revolt was crushed by the Soviet army. Budapest finally broke free of Moscow's influence when the Soviet bloc crumbled 17 years ago.

    Hungary is now a member of Nato and the European Union.

    'Hungarian patience'

    After talks with Hungarian leaders, Mr Bush laid flowers in memory of the victims of the 1956 uprising.

    "The lesson of the Hungarian experience is clear - liberty can be delayed but it cannot be denied," Mr Bush told an audience at a ceremony on a hill overlooking Budapest from which Soviet tanks had fired into the city.

    The Soviet Union had "crushed the Hungarian uprising but not the Hungarian people's thirst for freedom", he said.

    Mr Bush praised the new Iraqi PM, Nouri Maliki, saying Hungarians would recognise his spirit.

    But, he said, Iraq's democracy was still under threat from "determined enemies".

    "Defeating these enemies will require sacrifices and continued patience, the kind of patience the good people of Hungary displayed after 1956," he said.

    His speech acknowledged the high cost Hungary paid in its struggle for independence and thanked it for "leadership in freedom's cause".

    He also promoted a vision of democratic regimes triumphing with US backing.

    Mr Bush said Americans had learned from the experience of people who had stood up to oppression.

    Soviet crackdown

    The president's day-long trip comes after he attended a US-EU summit in Austria.

    His plane touched down in Budapest on Wednesday evening, where he was met by Hungarian Foreign Minister Kinga Goncz and US ambassador George Herbert Walker.

    He was greeted by Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom on Thursday morning, before the pair reviewed Hungarian troops.

    Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest in 1956 after a national uprising and subsequent call from Prime Minister Imre Nagy for the country to pull out of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact.

    Thousands of people died in the ensuing crackdown by Soviet forces, while hundreds of thousands more fled the country. In 1958, Soviet authorities announced Mr Nagy had been executed.

    Symbolic value

    Mr Bush's visit is four months early - the official commemoration is not until October but the US president is unable to attend then.

    The symbolic value of a people rising up against a dictatorial regime is close to his heart, says the BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest.

    But Hungarians underline that they opposed the Soviet power alone, and their appeals for help from the outside world went unheeded, our correspondent adds.

    During Mr Bush's visit, Hungary - which joined the EU two years ago - is expected to raise the long-standing demand for it and other recent EU members for visa-free travel to the US.

    Hungarian PM Ferenc Gyurcsany said he had discussed with Mr Bush demands to ease visa restrictions for Hungarians visiting the US.

    Hungary is one of nine of the 10 new EU member states that do not enjoy the visa waivers granted to most of the bloc's 15 older member states.

    "I understand this is a difficult issue," Mr Bush said, adding that the two countries "have developed a roadmap" for resolving it.

    Marines face Iraq murder charges

    Handcuffed Iraqi prisoners

    The US marine corps has charged seven marines and a navy sailor with murder over the death of a disabled Iraqi man.

    All eight would also face kidnapping and conspiracy charges, a spokesman told reporters at the Californian camp where the defendants were being held.

    They are accused of shooting a disabled man in Hamandiya in April, and covering up the circumstances of his death.

    It is one in a series of inquiries into the alleged abuse or killing of Iraqis by coalition forces.

    Another Pentagon inquiry is looking into an alleged massacre at Haditha last November, in which 24 civilians are thought to have been killed.

    Roadside bomb

    The Hamandiya investigation has been examining claims a man was deliberately killed on 26 April in the town in central Iraq.

    The accused are alleged to have taken the 52-year-old victim from his house, shot him and then left a rifle and shovel by his body to make it appear as if he were an insurgent planting a roadside bomb.

    Local Iraqis are said to have told marine leaders about the alleged shooting, which prompted an inquiry.

    The accused were taken out of Iraq and held at Camp Pendleton in California.

    A military spokesman said all were presumed innocent and it would be up to the authorities to decide if the men would face the death penalty in any future courts martial.

    They have been identified as Sgt Lawrence Hutchins, Cpl Trent Thomas, Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Melson Bacos, Lance Cpl Tyler Jackson, Pfc John Jackson, Lance Cpl Jerry Shumate, Lance Cpl Robert Pennington and Cpl Marshall Magincalda.

    "The marine corps takes allegations of wrongdoing by its members very seriously and is committed to thoroughly investigating such allegations," spokesman Col Stewart Navarre told reporters.

    "The marine corps also prides itself on holding its members accountable for their actions."

    More charges

    Correspondents say the Hamandiya and Haditha cases have generated a huge amount of unfavourable publicity for the marines and concern within the corps about the conduct of some in Iraq.

    Separately, the US military in Iraq announced that murder charges had been filed against a fourth soldier following the shooting of three male Iraqi prisoners near Tikrit in northern Iraq on 9 May.

    The announcement came after three soldiers were charged on Monday with premeditated murder in connection with the incident.

    Another US inquiry has cleared marines of blame for the deaths of civilians in Ishaqi in March.

    Earlier this month the US military announced that US-led troops in Iraq were to undergo 30 days of ethical training in the wake of the alleged massacre in Haditha.

    US soldiers' bodies found in Iraq

    Kristian Menchaca (left) and Thomas Tucker

    Two US soldiers missing in Iraq since Friday have been found dead south of Baghdad, the US military has said.

    The bodies were found in the Yusifiya area on Monday. An Iraqi defence ministry spokesman said the bodies had shown signs of torture.

    An insurgent group linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq, which claimed it abducted the men, has now said that it killed them.

    The missing men have been named as Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker, both from the 101st Airborne Division.

    Another US soldier, David Babineau, was killed in the attack on the checkpoint.

    Relatives' anger

    US military spokesman in Iraq, Maj Gen William Caldwell, said the bodies were found late on Monday by US troops.

    "We have recovered what we believe are the remains of our two missing soldiers. They will be taken back to the United States for positive verification."

    He said the cause of death was "undeterminable at this point".

    But Iraqi defence ministry spokesman Gen Abdul Aziz Mohammed said: "We found they had been tortured in a barbaric fashion."

    A US statement said that the bodies had been booby-trapped.

    It said 8,000 coalition and Iraqi forces had been carrying out a massive search for the missing men, and that one US soldier died and another 12 were injured in clashes during the search.

    Relatives of the men have already reacted with grief and anger.

    Ken MacKenzie, uncle of Kristian Menchaca, said on US television: "Because the US government did not have a plan in place, my nephew has paid for it with his life."

    An internet statement posted by the Mujahideen Shura Council - a grouping of insurgents that includes al-Qaeda in Iraq - said it had abducted the men and slit their throats.

    The posting, which cannot be independently confirmed, said the new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq - Abu Hamza al-Muhajir - had been "favoured by God" in being allowed to carry out a Sharia law tribunal death sentence.

    The former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a US air strike near Baquba on 7 June.

    Market bombs

    Gen Caldwell said on Tuesday US forces had killed Zarqawi's "right-hand man" in a raid in Yusifiya on Friday, near where the US troops were abducted.

    The general said Iraqi Mansur Suleiman al-Mashhadani was "a key leader in al-Qaeda" and could have succeeded Zarqawi.

    The US also said it had killed 15 "terrorists" in an "extremely long firefight" in Bushahin, north of Baquba.

    The US military said its forces came under attack from gunmen on a roof and around nearby buildings. After the firefight, it said, various weapons and explosives were found.

    However, angry local people said the dead were all innocent poultry workers.

    Meanwhile, violence continued around Iraq despite Zarqawi's death and a new security clampdown involving tens of thousands of Iraqi and US troops in Baghdad:

    • At least three people are killed in a car bomb in a market in Sadr City, eastern Baghdad

    • Two more people are killed and 28 hurt in an explosion at a clothes market in central Baghdad

    • Elsewhere, at least one elderly woman was killed along with a suicide bomber who blew himself up inside a home for the elderly in the southern city of Basra.

    US troops face Iraq death charges

    US marines in Iraq

    Three US soldiers have been charged over the deaths of three male Iraqi prisoners, the US military has said.

    The detainees were allegedly killed in an operation near the Thar Thar Canal near Tikrit in northern Iraq on 9 May.

    The charges against the three soldiers include murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and obstructing justice.

    US troops in Iraq have faced several accusations of unlawfully killing civilians and abusing detainees, prompting inquiries into their conduct.

    The US military recently began investigating the deaths of 24 unarmed civilians in the town of Haditha last year in an attack blamed on US marines.

    The US military appears to have acted quickly to investigate this latest allegation of misconduct, following the accusation that it did not move fast enough to probe the Haditha incident.

    But the news that elite American troops are being charged with murder is far from helpful for the US military, says the BBC's Adam Brookes, in Washington.


    The three soldiers charged on Monday are from the 101st Airborne Division.

    Their unit commander had ordered an inquiry on the day the alleged murders took place, the US military said.

    The US military gave little other information about the events leading to the charges.

    On 9 May some troops from the 101st Airborne were taking part in a raid on an old chemical complex, hunting for insurgents active in Salahuddin province, our correspondent says.

    A statement by the military said the inquiry had been ordered after soldiers became suspicious about the circumstances in which the detainees had died.

    The military said a criminal investigation had been started on 17 May and was "ongoing".

    The accused soldiers are currently said to be in "pre-trial confinement".

    They must await the outcome of an Article 32 hearing - the military equivalent of a grand jury - before finding out whether they will face a court martial.

    US troops 'seized by insurgents'

    US troops in Baghdad

    Two US soldiers missing in Iraq since Friday were abducted at gunpoint by masked militants, witnesses say.

    A huge hunt has been launched in the volatile area south of Baghdad where the pair were last seen.

    Witnesses say they were captured after their Humvee vehicle came under fire at a checkpoint. A third soldier died.

    The US military has not commented on the witnesses' claims but says it will hunt for the men until it establishes what has happened to them.

    In other developments:

    • US and Iraqi troops set up extra checkpoints in the insurgent stronghold town of Ramadi in an effort to restrict militants' movements, but say a full-scale assault is not planned

    • In Baghdad, which was rocked by a string of explosions on Saturday, 10 bakery workers are kidnapped at gunpoint from a mainly Shia area

    • The bodies of 10 men are found elsewhere in Baghdad, bearing signs of torture, police say

    • An explosion near a university in the northern city of Mosul kills one woman and injures 19 people

    The US search for the missing soldiers has focused on the area near Yusufiya, south of Baghdad, where they were manning a checkpoint at a road junction.

    Local farmer Ahmed Khalaf Falah said three Humvees were at the checkpoint when it came under fire. Two vehicles drove off in pursuit of the attackers, but the third was ambushed, he told the Associated Press news agency.

    He said seven masked men killed the driver of the third vehicle, before seizing the two other US soldiers.

    A similar account appeared in the New York Times newspaper.

    "I heard the men shouting 'God is great!' and I saw that they had taken the Americans with them. The gunmen took them and drove away," Hassan Abdul Hadi told the paper.

    The US military quickly launched an effort to find its troops, searching from the air, on land and in the canals around the River Euphrates.

    It carried out house-to-house searches on Saturday in areas near the site where the men were last since.

    "Coalition and Iraqi forces will continue to search everywhere possible, uncovering every stone, until our soldiers are found, and we will continue to use every resource available in our search," a statement said on Sunday.

    In the US, White House spokesman Tony Snow said he had no information on the fate of the soldiers.

    "I don't want to try to create the impression that they're dead or alive," he said.

    "We're just simply trying to find them and we're hoping that they're alive."

    Kidnap risks

    It is believed to be the first time in more than two years that US soldiers have been at the centre of kidnap fears.

    Sergeant Keith Maupin was seized in April 2004 when a fuel convoy was ambushed. A video purporting to show his death has not been authenticated and the US says it continues to search for him.

    US soldiers in Iraq are regularly attacked and are forbidden from travelling alone, or in individual vehicles.

    The area south of Baghdad where the search for the two missing US soldiers is being conducted is known as the Triangle of Death, because of regular fatal clashes between US forces and Sunni insurgents.

    US probes Iraqi prisoner deaths

    Handcuffed Iraqi prisoners

    A top US commander has ordered an inquiry into the deaths of three Iraqi prisoners in military custody.

    The three died in early May while being held by coalition forces in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad.

    The probe was triggered by soldiers who raised suspicions about the deaths, said Lt Gen Peter W Chiarelli, head of multinational forces in Iraq.

    It is the latest in a series of inquiries into the alleged abuse or killing of Iraqis by coalition forces.

    'Suspicious deaths'

    A statement by Gen Chiarelli released by the US army said the investigation would examine the "circumstances surrounding the deaths of three males in coalition force custody in southern Salaheddin province on or about 9 May 2006".

    "The request for an investigation is the result of soldiers' reported suspicions about the deaths," he said, without giving further details.

    The criminal investigation comes just weeks after a US military probe cleared US troops of any wrongdoing in the deaths of an Iraqi family in the town of Ishaqi in March.

    On Friday, the US military said a probe into an alleged massacre at Haditha in November had been completed and was being reviewed by Gen Chiarelli.

    Another investigation is being held into claims that an Iraqi man was deliberately killed in April in Hamandiya - and that the circumstances were covered up.

    The US marine corps is also investigating a video which allegedly shows a marine singing a song about Iraqi civilians being killed by insurgents.

    Bush apologizes to reporter for making fun of his sunglasses

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush, who often teases members of the White House press corps, apologized Wednesday after he poked fun at a reporter for wearing sunglasses without realizing they were needed for vision loss.

    Bush called on Los Angeles Times reporter Peter Wallsten and asked if he was going to ask his question with his "shades" on.

    "For the viewers, there's no sun," Bush said to the television cameras.

    But even though the sun was behind the clouds, Wallsten still needs the sunglasses because he has Stargardt's disease, a form of macular degeneration that causes progressive vision loss. The condition causes Wallsten to be sensitive to glare and even on a cloudy day, can cause pain and increase the loss of sight.

    Wallsten said Bush called his cellphone later in the day to apologize and tell him that he didn't know he had the disease. Wallsten said he interrupted and told the president that no apology was necessary and that he didn't feel offended since he hadn't told anyone at the White House about his condition.

    "He said, 'I needle you guys out of affection,'" Wallsten said. "I said, 'I understand that, but I don't want you to treat me any differently because of this.'"

    Wallsten said the president said he would not treat him differently, so Wallsten encouraged him to "needle away."

    "He said, 'I will. Next time I'll just use a different needle,'" Wallsten said.

    Wallsten said he thought that was a pretty good line. And his only complaint is that the president didn't answer his question at the news conference.

    Wallsten, who is also author of a book coming out next month titled One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century, had asked about White House credibility now in the aftermath of top aide Karl Rove having been cleared in the CIA leak investigation. But Bush said he wouldn't comment with another top White House aide still facing prosecution in the case.

    US death toll in Iraq hits 2,500

    The coffin of a US marine killed in Iraq

    The number of US troops killed in Iraq has reached 2,500 with the death of a marine, the Pentagon has announced.

    It did not identify the 2,500th casualty, in line with US policy not to release details until 24 hours after the family has been informed.

    A Pentagon statement said 1,972 of those who died were killed in action.

    The campaign group Iraq Body Count estimates that the number of civilians killed since the outset of the conflict ranges between 38,355 and 42,747.

    It makes its calculation on the basis of media reports, and believes it to be a conservative estimate.

    Other reports put the number of civilian casualties much higher.

    Thousands of Iraqi security forces, military personnel from other countries, and Iraqi and foreign insurgents have also died.

    'Tremendous sacrifice'

    Between November 2005 and March 2006, the number of US military fatalities fell month-by-month, as insurgents seemed to focus attacks on Iraqi security forces and civilians.

    However, they jumped back above the average for April and May. The Pentagon put the blame on a recent surge in rebel violence.

    Polls in the US suggest opposition to America's presence in Iraq has grown - while support for President George Bush's handling of the war has fallen.

    The Pentagon notes that the death rate for US troops is much lower than those in the Vietnam or Korean wars, to which Iraq has sometimes been compared.

    In each of those conflicts more than 50,000 US troops died.

    "It's important to remember that there is a mission, and there is a greater good which sometimes necessitates tremendous sacrifice," said the US army's Brig Gen Carter Ham.

    "Rather than focus on an aggregate number, I think it's more important for us to remember that there are individuals in that aggregate number... to whom we should be very, very grateful, and to their families."

    The US Senate on Thursday approved $65.8bn for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, following a similar vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

    Since the 9/11 attacks, the US has now spent or allocated $438bn on its "war on terror", with more than 70% spent in Iraq.

    Bush pledges to help Iraq succeed

    Iraqi troops search car in central Baghdad

    US President George W Bush has pledged to do "what it takes" to help the new Iraqi government to succeed.

    His comments came in a news conference following a surprise trip to Baghdad on Tuesday, where he met new Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

    "I saw first-hand the strength of his character and his deep determination to succeed," Mr Bush told reporters.

    He also announced details of tough new measures in Baghdad in an effort to win back control of the city's streets.

    Some 40,000 Iraqi and US troops were put on the streets just after dawn as part of a crackdown ordered by Mr Maliki.

    He has said he is willing to talk to some insurgents, as long as they do not have blood on their hands.

    Meanwhile violence continued, with clashes breaking out between gunmen and security forces in the city's north.

    No casualties were reported in the clashes, in the mainly Sunni Adhamiya district, which officials said lasted about half an hour.

    A car bomb also exploded in northern Baghdad, killing at least two people and injuring 10, police said. A second car bomb exploded in another northern area, but no-one died.

    Fears are high that al-Qaeda in Iraq is preparing new attacks after the killing of their leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

    Zarqawi's successor, named as Abu Hamza al-Mujahid, has reportedly vowed to defeat "crusaders and Shias" in Iraq.

    'Capable people'

    Mr Bush acknowledged that violence in Iraq would never be completely eliminated.

    But he said intelligence gathered from raids after the death of Zarqawi was being used to track down insurgents.

    "I was inspired to be able to visit the capital of a free and democratic Iraq," Mr Bush said of his visit on Tuesday, which gave Mr Maliki just five minutes' warning.

    The US president had been chairing talks in the US on future policy in Iraq and had been due to speak to Mr Maliki via videophone.

    He said the trip had banished any doubts about the new government's "will to go forward".

    Mr Bush described the new prime minister's agenda and cabinet as "impressive".

    "I came away with the feeling they're plenty capable people," he said.

    Difference noticed

    The new security measures will be the strictest imposed on Baghdad since the US-led invasion in 2003.

    Immigration Rally Takes Positive Tone

    As part of the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice yesterday, roughly half a million people descended upon the National Mall for what was carefully choregraphed as an upbeat, inclusive rally for immigrants' rights rather than an anger-filled protest.

    The tone and message of the immigration rally were resoundingly positive. Despite the strongly negative feelings toward HR4437 ・a House bill that would criminalize illegal immigrants in the United States ・the focus of the event was the strength of the immigrant community and the importance of working out a deal on immigration reform. Hence the mantra of the event: "Si se pued