- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2007

CAMP DAVID, Md. — President Bush today repeated his promise to veto a Democratic bill ordering U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq this year, and said he would veto any similar bill if Democrats do not drop their demands for a withdrawal timeline.

“I’m sorry it’s come to this […] but it is what it is, and there will be a veto, and my veto will be sustained,” Mr. Bush said during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his presidential retreat.

The Senate yesterday passed the supplemental funding bill that would require U.S. troops to begin pulling out of Iraq no later than October and as soon as July.

Democrat leaders are expected to send the bill to Mr. Bush Monday or Tuesday.

Mr. Bush again repeated his vow to veto the bill, but invited congressional leaders to meet with him quickly to work on redrafting new legislation that will meet his request for about $95 billion in war spending. “I’m optimistic we can get a bill, a good bill, a bill that satisfies all our objectives, and that is to get the money to the troops as quickly as possible,” Mr. Bush said.

The president, however, said that if Democrats insist on passing a second bill with a withdrawal timeline, he will veto that bill.

“If the Congress wants to test my will as to whether I’ll accept a timetable, I won’t accept one,” Mr. Bush said. “If they want to try again, that which I’ve said is not acceptable, then of course I’ll veto it again, but I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Mr. Bush and Mr. Abe spoke after their first meeting together in the U.S. Mr. Abe was elected last fall, and the two leaders met in November in Hanoi.

At the top of their agenda was North Korea’s noncompliance so far with an agreement to shut down their nuclear program. Mr. Abe said the state of negotiations between North Korea and a six-country bloc, including the U.S. and Japan, is “regrettable.”

The U.S. has been seen by some in Japan as softening their stance towards North Korea by beginning talks about removing the country from their state sponsors of terrorism list. But Mr. Bush, while emphasizing the need for a diplomatic solution, said that the agreement reached in February gives the U.S. “a capability of more sanctions.”

“Our patience is not unlimited,” Mr. Bush said. “There is still time for the North Korean leader to make the right choice.” Mr. Abe said that he and Mr. Bush “completely see eye to eye on this issue.”

Mr. Bush was also asked whether he would insist that North Korea release Japanese nationals they have abducted over the years.

The Japanese have urged the U.S. to make this a precondition for removing the North Koreans from the state sponsor of terrorism list.

Mr. Bush, however, dodged the question by telling the story of a Japanese woman whose visit to the White House, where she told him about her abducted daughter, “deeply affected” him.

Mr. Abe, nonetheless, was again reassuring. “George and our American friends, I’m sure, are fully aware and they understand our thinking and they support our position,” Mr. Abe said.

Mr. Abe and his wife Akie Abe leave the U.S. for the Middle East this evening, after spending the night in Washington last night.

U.S. officials made several references, while the prime minister was here, to the White House’s hopes that the two leaders would begin to develop a strong personal relationship similar to the one Mr. Bush enjoyed with Mr. Abe’s predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that a short private meeting between the two leaders at Camp David, scheduled to last only five minutes, stretched into a 40-minute pow-wow in the president’s private study.

“Our talks were very relaxed, but they were strategic,” Mr. Bush said. “The alliance between Japan and the United States has never been stronger.”

Mr. and Mrs. Bush also served a lunch to the Japanese delegation at Camp David today that included American beef hamburgers. Mr. Bush made reference to the hamburgers in his opening remarks at the press conference, pressing Mr. Abe to allow American beef producers to export to Japan.

“I’m absolutely convinced that the Japanese people will be better off if they eat American beef,” Mr. Bush said, smiling. Mr. Abe’s face betrayed nothing.

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