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Boston Globe: Pelosi faults GOP in Iraq war; Says efforts to chart new course were blocked

By Scott Helman

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed frustration yesterday at the public perception that Democrats in Congress had failed to end the war in Iraq, saying the blame lies with congressional Republicans who have blocked all efforts to chart a new course.

In an hourlong interview with the editorial board of The Boston Globe, Pelosi said responsibility for the war no longer lay just with President Bush but with her Republican counterparts on Capitol Hill, who she said are more interested in protecting Bush than working to redeploy the 169,000 American troops now in Iraq.

'We have to make it very clear to the American people that it was George Bush's war [but] it is now the Republicans in Congress's war,' she said.

The perception among many Americans, she said, is that Democrats, despite leading Congress since January, had failed to make meaningful progress toward ending the war, which they promised to do after winning both chambers of Congress in last fall's elections.

'They think we just aren't doing it, and that's good for Republicans,' Pelosi said.

Just 24 percent of respondents in a Gallup poll earlier this month said they approved of the job Congress was doing, compared with 71 percent who said they disapproved.

Pelosi said Democrats had been willing to work with Republicans to find common ground on Iraq, but that a turning point came last week when Republican senators blocked a war measure sponsored by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. Webb's proposal would have required that troops get as much time at home as on the war front.

'The Republicans in the Senate have guarded the gate,' Pelosi said.

While the administration envisions a lasting troop presence in Iraq, Pelosi said she wants to see a troop redeployment begin soon, with a goal of having the bulk of American forces out of Iraq within a year or so. Until then, she said, the United States will continue to be distracted from its more worthy fight against terrorism - including operations in Afghanistan - and to see its reputation stained.