Bush warns over Iraq funds delay

President George W Bush

President Bush says he will veto bills linking funds with withdrawal

US President George W Bush has warned that US troops will suffer if a dispute with Congress over a war funding bill is not resolved soon.Speaking at the White House, Mr Bush said Congress was failing in its “basic responsibility” to give troops the equipment and training they need.

He renewed his threat to veto any bill that ties war funding with a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops.

Both House and Senate have passed bills calling for troops to leave next year.

Mr Bush said both bills would “undercut the troops” in Iraq and Afghanistan and repeated his warning that he would veto them.

He also noted that 57 days had passed since he requested the war funding – and reproached members of Congress for having “left on spring break without finishing their work”.

If Congress did not approve a war funding bill, “the price of that failure will be paid by our troops and their loved ones”, Mr Bush said, warning troops would spend longer on the front lines.

“That is unacceptable to me and, I believe, it is unacceptable to the American people.”

‘Cut off money’

The president’s remarks came a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he would try to cut off money for most Iraq war operations after 31 March 2008, if the president vetoes Congress’s proposals.

US troops in Iraq

The Pentagon says funding delays will hit US troops in Iraq this month

The end of March is the date set out in last week’s Senate bill for the goal of pulling all combat troops out of Iraq.

In a statement on Tuesday, Senator Reid promised the Democrats would give US forces “the resources they need and a strategy in Iraq worthy of their sacrifices”.

He said that if Mr Bush vetoed the bill, the president would be delaying funding for troops and keeping in place “his strategy for failure” .

Mr Bush and Defence Secretary Robert Gates have warned that money for US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan could start to run out from mid-April if the funding bill is not passed.

Analysts say the Pentagon has sufficient financial reserves to last until mid-July, if it moves money around.

But Mr Gates has said the military will be “forced to consider” altering training schedules for reserves and units to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as delays in repairing equipment and renovating barracks.

Close votes

The Senate legislation approves $122bn (£62bn) in funds – mostly for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – but also orders the president to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 120 days of passage of the bill.

The House – whose $124bn bill imposes a 31 August 2008 deadline for troop withdrawal – and Senate must next reconcile their two versions of the bill and send the result to Mr Bush.

If the president refuses to sign it and returns it unsigned, the bill will not become law.

The votes in both the House and Senate were close enough to suggest Congress will not be able to override his threatened veto.

Mr Bush’s Republican party lost control of both houses of Congress to the Democrats last year.

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