Reid says Congress will pass bill forcing withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) – Defying a fresh veto threat, the Democratic-controlled Congress will pass legislation within days requiring the start of a troop withdrawal from Iraq by Oct. 1, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday.

The legislation also sets a goal of a complete pullout by April 1, 2008, he said.

In remarks prepared for delivery, Reid said that under the legislation the troops that remain after next April 1 could only train Iraqi security units, protect U.S forces and conduct “targeted counter-terror operations.”

Reid spoke a few hours after Bush said he will reject any legislation along the lines of what Democrats will pass. “I will strongly reject an artificial timetable (for) withdrawal and/or Washington politicians trying to tell those who wear the uniform how to do their job,” the president said.

Bush made his comments to reporters in the Oval Office as he met with senior military leaders, including his top general in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus.

Taken together, Reid’s speech and Bush’s comments inaugurated a week of extraordinary confrontation between the president and the new Democratic-controlled Congress over a war that has taken the lives of more than 3,200 U.S. troops.

Negotiators for the House and Senate arranged a late-afternoon meeting to ratify the timetable that Reid laid out. The demand for a change in course will be attached to a funding bill that is needed to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.