Bush veto gets backing from PM

On the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war, in a show of defiance to the Democrat-dominated Congress, President Bush has acted to block the legislation.

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In only the second veto of his presidency, Mr Bush has rejected legislation that would have required the first US combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by October 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

He vetoed the bill immediately on his return to the White House from a visit to MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, headquarters of US Central Command, which oversees military operations in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

Democrats unhappy

Democrats made a last-minute plea for Mr Bush to sign the bill, knowing their request would be ignored.

"The president has put our troops in the middle of a civil war," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Reality on the ground proves what we all know: a change of course is needed."

Lacking the votes to override the president, Democratic leaders quietly considered what might be included or kept out of their next version of the $US124 billion ($A150 billion) spending bill.

It was a day of high political drama, falling on the fourth anniversary of Mr Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech on an aircraft carrier and his declaration that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.

Democrats held an unusual signing ceremony before sending the bill to the White House.

"This legislation respects the wishes of the American people to end the Iraq war," said Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives.

symbolic pen

Mr Bush signed the veto with a pen given to him by Robert Derga, father of Marine Corps Reserve Corporal Dustin Derga, who was killed in Iraq on May 8, 2005.

The elder Mr Derga met Mr Bush on April 16 when the president hosted military families in the East Room of the White House.

Mr Derga asked Mr Bush to promise to use the pen in his veto.

Today, Mr Derga contacted the White House to remind Bush to use the pen, and so he did.

Minutes after Mr Bush vetoed the bill, an anti-war demonstrator stood outside the White House with a bullhorn and shouted: "How many more must die? How many more must die?"

Support from John Howard

Prime Minister John Howard said withdrawing troops too early would cause chaos in Iraq.

"As far as we are concerned, as part of the coalition of the willing, my attitude is clearly the same attitude President Bush has taken and that is if the coalition pulls out before the Iraqis are able to look after themselves then Iraq will be plunged into deeper chaos than they are experiencing at the present time," he told Sky News.

Mr Howard said the only suitable way to determine withdrawal was based on security conditions at the time in Iraq.

"Withdrawal of American, and indeed Australian forces, should not be according to a pre-determined timetable," Mr Howard said.

"It should be according to the conditions that prevail in the country.

"It is not helpful for me, or the president, or the American administration to be setting a timetable, rather .. (it) should be conditions-based, as conditions improve then it will become possible to look at these things.

"But until they have improved it is entirely premature and I therefore support what President Bush has said and done."

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