U.S. Senator Rejects Calls For Troop Withdrawal In Iraq

U.S. Senator John Ensign has rejected calls for the withdrawal of American troops in Iraq by the end of the year, saying the decision should be based on "conditions on the ground and not on politics."

Speaking to reporters by conference call today from Baghdad, the
Nevada Republican said he now has "much more optimism" about the
war in Iraq because of improved security following last year's increase in American troops.

His comments came amid a weekend tour of Iraq with Republican
Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina.
The contingent met today with top Iraqi leaders, as well as with General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq,
and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

The visit came two days after Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania said he's preparing legislation that would give President Bush the war funding he wants this year, but on the condition that troops leave Iraq by the end of the year.

Ensign says "it's impossible to say" how long American troops will remain in Iraq, but Iraqi leaders warned the contingent that a pullout "too soon" would embolden Iran and al-Qaida.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-02-09-08 1801EST