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Admiral says it’s time to change goals in Iraq

WASHINGTON – It may be time to “redefine the goals” for Iraq, the admiral President Bush picked to lead U.S. forces in the Middle East told Congress on Tuesday as lawmakers of both parties maneuvered for leverage against Bush’s proposed troop buildup.

Navy Adm. William Fallon, Bush’s nominee to head the U.S. Central Command, told his Senate confirmation hearing the time for finding solutions in Iraq was running out.

“What we have been doing has not been working,” he said. “We have got to be doing, it seems to me, something different.” He did not say what might change under his command.

Fallon, whom Bush nominated to replace Army Gen. John Abizaid as head of Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was not yet sure how he would go about changing the approach in Iraq.

Fallon told the senators, “I believe the situation in Iraq can be turned around, but time is short.”

“I think that we would probably be wise to temper our expectations here, that the likelihood that Iraq is suddenly going to turn into something that looks close to what we enjoy here in this country is going to be a long time coming,” he said.

Report from Iraq

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, just returned from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, told a news conference on Capitol Hill that her delegation saw no sign that U.S. efforts in Iraq were moving ahead with urgency.

“We went with the hope and expectation that what we would see in Iraq was some coordinated effort to have political solutions, to relieve the civil strife and violence there, and diplomatic efforts to bring stability to the region,” she said. “We saw no evidence of either, sadly.”

Rejecting Bush’s troop buildup, Pelosi called for refocusing the U.S. military mission from combat to a combination of training Iraqi forces, protecting Iraq’s borders and fighting terrorists.

War powers debate

Bush’s declaration last week that “I am the decision-maker” on issues of war also ran into resistance, this time from a prominent Republican.

Bush has said he intends to push ahead with his plan to send an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq, regardless of any resolution the Senate may pass. There were about 132,000 U.S. troops in Iraq before the increase.

“I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider,” Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said during a hearing on Congress’ war powers. “The decider is a shared and joint responsibility.”

Baker presses negotiation

James A. Baker III, secretary of state during Bush’s father’s administration, told a congressional hearing Tuesday that the White House should find a way to negotiate with Congress on troop additions.

“A majority of Congress is ready to vote against a surge” in troops, Baker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Baker was co-chairman of a bipartisan commission that recommended the administration pull out U.S. combat brigades by early 2008, launch new diplomatic initiatives with Iran and Syria and vastly increase the number of U.S. military advisers in Iraq.