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Senate Democrats offer new Iraq plan

WASHINGTON, June 19 (UPI) -- Two Senate Democrats said Monday they will offer legislation to begin the deliberate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by the end of 2006.

Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., say their amendment to the FY-2007 defense authorization bill differs from other proposals because it provides a start date for withdrawal rather than an end date by which it would be complete.

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"Three-and-a-half years into the conflict, we should tell the Iraqis that the American security blanket is not permanent. Beginning a phased redeployment this year will add incentives for the Iraqis to make the hard compromises necessary to bring their country together and secure it. They need to do that job themselves and our amendment is one way to prod them to make that commitment and stick to it," Levin said in a press release issued Monday.

Levin has been arguing for at least a year that the open-ended commitment to Iraq gives politicians there a disincentive to compromise. As long as U.S. troops are in the country to manage the violence, they can jockey for position, influence and political power with minimal risk.

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"This amendment sends the Iraqi government a clear message: you need to get to work and achieve a meaningful political solution," Reed said Monday.

The Levin-Reed amendment calls on the Iraqi government to share power and economic resources among all Iraqi groups and to disarm the militias. It also calls for an international political conference on Iraq, the payment of pledged donations, and a commitment to continued non-military support for reconstruction and governance.

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