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the Independent/UK

US Senate to Vote on Cutting off Iraq War Money

the Independent staff

WASHINGTON - The US Senate is expected to vote as early as this week on whether to cut off money for the Iraq war next year, as well as on a softer measure calling for US troops to leave by October.

Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid said today that the two measures would be offered as amendments to a water projects funding bill being debated this week. 0515 02

While the Senate had planned to take up Iraq legislation this week, Mr Reid had previously been unclear what specifics members would consider.

The first amendment, backed by Mr Reid and Senator Russ Feingold, would require that combat operations end by March 31 next year by cutting off money after that date.

The second measure would provide more than 120 billion dollars (£60 billion) to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as various domestic projects.

It would call for troops to begin leaving Iraq by October 1, but allow the president to waive that requirement.

Passage of the 120 billion dollars in war spending would not allow the Senate to begin negotiating with the House of Representatives and send President George Bush a bill by the end of the month, said Rodell Mollineau, a Reid spokesman.

But "these are important votes. This will give members an opportunity to debate these issues and have up-or-down votes on these."

Last week the House approved, by 221 votes to 205, legislation that would fund the war in two-month instalments, giving Congress a chance to cut off money for the war after July.

The House measure was considered unlikely to survive in the Senate, where Democrats wanted to fund the war until September.

Mr Reid said: "On our side of the aisle, Democrats believe they should do something very, very close to what was done in the bill that was sent to the president to be vetoed."

Mr Reid's strategy is likely to appease party members such as Mr Feingold who say they will not vote for legislation that funds the deeply unpopular war without binding language demanding US troops leave.

Mr Feingold said: "The American people deserve to have the Senate go on record about whether or not it wants to end our misguided mission in Iraq and safely redeploy our brave troops."

Mr Feingold's tough anti-war measure is unlikely to pass the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow majority and several oppose using the budget to end the war.

© 2007 Independent News and Media Limited

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