Senate Dem Leadership Urges Bush to Appoint Envoy to Iraq

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - In a letter to President George W. Bush, members of the Senate Democratic leadership urged the president to appoint a special envoy to Iraq as a way of bridging U.S. troop withdrawal from the country.

The letter, signed by incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), and Jack Reed (R.I.) called on the president to "appoint a special envoy to work full-time with the Iraqi government and other regional players to reaffirm the basic message that the Iraqis must reach a political settlement and to help find immediate, tangible ways to quell the violence, provide services, and create long-term peace and stability."

The senators also requested that the president speak with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki about a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal during their meeting on Friday in Amman, Jordan.

"We strongly urge you to advise [al-Maliki] that the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is not open-ended and that the American people are impatient with the failure of the Iraqi political leaders to reach a political compromise," the group told Bush.

"Violence in Iraq has reached critical levels, and the violence is not predominantly instigated by insurgents, but is taking place between Sunnis and Shia. It is our belief that Coalition military action alone cannot end this violence," they wrote. "Iraqi government and religious leaders must clearly and publicly condemn all sectarian violence."

The senators continued, "However, it is unlikely that all decisions can or will be made in a single meeting. Therefore, we believe that a U.S. special envoy, who is known to the Iraqis and other regional players and reports directly to you, is required to follow up on issues discussed at the meeting and ensure continued attention to these matters."

The group said the primary objectives of the envoy should be to disband the militias, ensure that the Iraqi government begins "serving the needs of all Iraqis," provide for "equitable sharing of oil revenues," and provide basic services.

"We understand that all of these steps are difficult," they said.

But during the president's joint press conference with al-Maliki on Friday, Bush rejected the idea that troop reductions are on the horizon.

"We'll be in Iraq until the job is complete, at the request of a sovereign government elected by the people," he said.

"I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the government wants us there," Bush added.

"It's in our interests. In my judgment, if we were to leave before the job is done, it would only embolden terrorists, it would only embolden the extremists," he said.

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