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Bush Announces Some Troops Will Leave Iraq; Democrats Want More

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This week, President Bush said he will bring home almost six thousand American troops from Iraq by the end of the year. He also accepted the advice of his top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, for limited reductions by next July.

The president said his decisions on troop levels are being guided by the idea of what he called return on success. He said the reductions are possible because his decision to send additional troops earlier this year has improved security.

Troop levels in Iraq rose from around one hundred thirty thousand to nearly one hundred seventy thousand.

The president spoke from the White House Thursday night. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island answered for the Democratic Party which controls Congress. He said an endless and unlimited military presence in Iraq is not a choice. He said the Democrats propose to begin what he called a responsible and rapid redeployment of American troops out of Iraq.

A public opinion study by the Associated Press this week showed that almost two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the war. It also showed that fifty-eight percent believe the troop increase, known as the surge, has not helped the situation in Iraq.

The president spoke hours after a bomb killed a local Sunni leader he met during a visit to Anbar last week. Mister Bush called him "one of the brave tribal sheiks who helped lead the revolt against al-Qaeda" in that province.

The president again sought to link the war with security at home. He said the nation must succeed for the safety of future generations of Americans.

But Senator Reed warned that American interests throughout the world are being damaged. And he said the armed forces are being stretched toward the breaking point.

Democrats say the recent troop increase in Iraq has failed to meet what was supposed to be the main goal. That was to give Iraqi leaders the chance to work for political unity.

President Bush said Iraq's national leaders are getting some things done. For example, he noted that they have passed a budget and are sharing oil money with the provinces. He said efforts to unite warring groups are making progress locally. As local politics change, he said, so will national politics.

Congress wants the Iraqi government to meet eighteen political and security goals. On Friday, the White House gave a new report on these goals, known as benchmarks. The Iraqis are making satisfactory progress on nine of them, it says, one more than in the last report in July.

Also Friday, the State Department released its International Religious Freedom Report for two thousand seven. It says that over the past year, the violence in Iraq greatly harmed the ability of all religious believers to practice their faith. It says many individuals were victims of kidnapping, killings and other abuse because of their religious identity.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English -- online at I'm Steve Ember.