Friday 24 August 2007

Bush ally breaks ranks with call for troop pullout

President Bush appears to have lost one of his most crucial Republican allies on Iraq and perhaps the party’s most influential voice on the war when Senator John Warner last night demanded the start of a troop withdrawal from Iraq by Christmas.

Mr Warner, a former Secretary of the Navy and a respected military voice on Capitol Hill, took Washington by surprise when he asked Mr Bush to announce the start of the pullout on September 15.

Mr Warner has repeatedly voiced concerns about the war in recent weeks but his decision to break from the White House without waiting for next month’s report by General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, has the potential to transform the debate over the war on Capitol Hill.

Although Mr Bush is likely to retain a veto-proof majority to block efforts by the Democrats to end the war, Mr Warner’s comments will give political cover to many wavering Republicans to defect after General Petraeus’s report to Congress.