Lawmakers Skeptical About Assurances on Iraq

Condoleezza Rice testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. i i

hide captionSecretary of State Condoleezza Rice testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Condoleezza Rice testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assured members of Congress on Wednesday that the Bush administration isn't going to limit the options of future presidents regarding U.S. policy in Iraq. But lawmakers were skeptical.

Rice said the Bush administration is not seeking to set up permanent bases or commit the U.S. to defend Iraq in the future, but members of Congress said there have been different signals coming out of the administration. By the end of the day, Rice was also grilled on whether she lied in the run-up to the war.

In both a Senate and a House hearing, Rice was asked to go on record to explain what sort of commitments the Bush administration is planning to make to the Iraqis. Administration officials are set to negotiate an agreement to give legal cover to U.S. troops based there and to guide the relationship.

"This is not about permanent bases, this is not about undertaking security assurances to the defense of Iraq," Rice said. "But it is about a long-term relationship with Iraq that would help Iraq be a stable and good neighbor in the region."

U.S. troops operate in Iraq under a U.N. Security Council resolution that must be approved each year. Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaida'ie, says Iraq wants to avoid that annual process and negotiate a bilateral agreement that will not only regulate U.S. troops, but also American contractors.

The debate over America's future presence in Iraq took on elements of a debate over the run-up to the war.

Florida Rep. Robert Wexler used Wednesday's hearing to bring up a report by the Center for Public Integrity that said Rice made 56 false statements to "pump up the case" for war.

"Congressman, I take my integrity very seriously," Rice responded. "And I did not at any time make a statement that I knew to be false or that I thought to be false in order to 'pump up' anything."

On the Senate side, California Democrat Barbara Boxer also pressed Rice, asking her how much more the war in Iraq will cost. Rice said that is a question no one can answer.

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