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Agence France Presse

US Democrats Slam 'Political Spin' over Iraq Report


WASHINGTON - Anti-war Democrats on Thursday accused President George W. Bush of plotting to lace a potentially pivotal report on his Iraq troop surge strategy with "White House spin."

The attack came as senior congressional aides were reported as saying the White House wanted to block public testimony in Congress next month from war commander General David Petraeus and US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker. 0817 05

Democrats are also angry the assessment on the surge, required under US law, will be written at the White House, not personally by Crocker and Petraeus.

But the White House accused Democrats of playing political games with war strategy, and made clear the two men would appear in public.

Senate Democratic Majority leader Harry Reid accused the White House of launching an attempt to mask candid testimony on the strategy.

"If the president is going to continue to ask American soldiers to fight in this civil war ... then those closest to the situation on the ground must give Congress and the American people a frank and honest account of this war free of White House spin," he said.

But National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe denied there had been an attempt to limit testimony by Petraeus and Crocker, as reported by Thursday's Washington Post.

"General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will testify to the Congress in both open as well as closed sessions," he said in Crawford, Texas, where Bush is on vacation.

"It's unfortunate that anyone would suggest that they would not do that; trying to start a fight where there really isn't one, because this has always been the plan."

The law requiring the Iraq war report by September 15 states that "the president shall submit" the assessment to Congress after consulting top military brass, the US ambassador to Baghdad and his national security team.

It does not specify that the report must be the direct work of Crocker and Petraeus.

Copyright © AFP 2007

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