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Murtha wants to block Iraq 'surge'

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. John Murtha said Thursday he would try to use congressional fiscal power to derail the new "surge" strategy in Iraq.

In an exclusive interview published Thursday on the Web site www.movecongress.org, Rep. Murtha. D-Penn., chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense of the U.S. House of Representatives, said he wanted to use the Supplemental Appropriations bill before his committee to prevent the 'surge' of additional U.S. troops into Iraq.

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Murtha told MoveOnCongress.org he wanted to set up a new series of conditions governing the sending of American soldiers to Iraq. He said the U.S. forces first had to be approved as "fully combat ready" with sufficient training and equipment. He wanted to cap all tours of duty at a maximum of one year with a guaranteed full year at home between tours of duty in Iraq. And he said he was determined to end the controversial "stop-loss" system under which U.S. serving troops had their time of service compulsorily extended.

Murtha said his committee was also looking at the possibility of preparing legislation to ban any U.S. attack against Iran without express congressional approval and to ban the building of any permanent bases for U.S. forces in Iraq. He said they might also prepare legislation to shut down the controversial U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; to physically demolish Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and to slash the number of private security contractors operating there.

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"A non-binding resolution is useless and counter-productive if not followed by strong binding congressional action. We are launching an effort to convince Members of Congress to back up their words with action upon their return to Washington," Murtha said in the interview.

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