White House Denies ‘NYT’ Report on ‘Debate’ Over War

By: E&P Staff and the Associated Press

President Bush is not contemplating withdrawing forces from Iraq now despite an erosion of support among Republicans for his war policy, the White House said Monday. The New York Times, in a front-page story today, reported moves in this direction, under the headline, “In White House, Debate Is Rising on Iraq Pullback.”

The deck suggested, “Aides Seek to Forestall G.O.P. Defections.”

But spokesman Tony Snow said, “You are not going to expect all the benchmarks to be met at the beginning of something. You are hoping that you are going to be able to see progress in terms of meeting benchmarks from that beginning stage to what you see in two months.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates shortened a planned trip this week so he would be in Washington to attend policy meetings aimed at coming up with the report to Congress.

Asked if Pentagon officials were studying a change in Iraq strategy, a spokesman there, Bryan Whitman, would say only that the military is “focused on implementing” the current strategy.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said there had been “a steady erosion for the president?s policy” in Congress because of the “tremendous loss of life among our troops” in June and “the failure of the Iraqi government to pursue the political reforms that are necessary to quell the sectarian violence.”

“There is no debate right now on withdrawing forces right now from Iraq,” Snow said.

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