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U.S. says 35, 000 troops may go to Iraq

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 9, 2007


WASHINGTON - The Pentagon on Tuesday alerted more than 35, 000 Army soldiers that they could be sent to Iraq this fall, a move that would allow the military to maintain heightened American troop levels into next year.

The deployment orders were signed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Early this year, President Bush ordered close to 30, 000 additional troops to Iraq to quell the spiking violence particularly in and around Baghdad. That buildup is expected to be completed in June. There are about 146, 000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the orders do not mean the military has decided to maintain the increased force levels through December. The Pentagon "has been very clear that a decision about the duration of the surge will depend on conditions on the ground, " he said.

Gates and his military leaders have said that commanders in Iraq will make recommendations in September on whether the buildup has been successful, and whether it should continue or if troops can begin coming home.

The troop announcement comes as Bush is under increasing pressure to pull troops out of Iraq. Bush last week vetoed a $124.2-billion bill that would have funded the war while requiring troops to start coming home this fall.

House Democratic leaders briefed 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. Bush requested more than $90-billion to fund the war through September.

The proposal is aimed at appeasing Democratic lawmakers who want to end the war immediately and are urging leaders not to back down after Bush's veto last week. But lacking a firm endorsement by the Senate, the challenge by House Democrats seemed more for political show than a preview of another veto showdown with Bush.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters before meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday that "nothing's been ruled out and nothing's been ruled in." He added that he would continue to try to work with the White House.

House Democratic leaders struck a more defiant tone.

"I didn't commit to any compromise" with the White House, Pelosi said.

Earlier in the day, Bush met with more than a dozen Democrats, most of whom have fairly conservative voting records.

"They (the White House) seemed to be concerned about their relationship with a number of us, and I think they should be, " said Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Ala., one of the members who attended. "It's perplexing why we couldn't have had a couple of these meetings earlier."

Violence: A suicide car bomber killed at least 16 people Tuesday in a crowded market in the Shiite holy city of Kufa, threatening to further stoke sectarian tensions in relatively peaceful areas south of Baghdad. At least 68 people were killed or found dead nationwide. Also, residents in Baqubah said that a U.S. helicopter fired on a group of school students, killing as many as seven. Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a military spokesman, said there was helicopter activity in the area and the accusations were being investigated.

U.S. deaths: A roadside bomb killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded another southeast of Baghdad, the military said.

Rebuilding: The threat of a walkout by Iraq's leading Sunni bloc in Parliament and the Cabinet seemed to subside Tuesday after a meeting between the Shiite prime minister, Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, and Tariq al-Hashimi, the Sunni vice president.