WASHINGTON, Oct 7 (AP): The US Senate is ready to give President George W. Bush $50 billion (euro41.46 billion) more for wars even as public support for the Iraq fighting slips, U.S. casualties climb and Congress grows increasingly frustrated with the direction of the conflict.
Part of a $445 billion (euro369 billion) military spending bill for the budget year that began Oct. 1, the war money would pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and push funding for wars since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, beyond $350 billion (euro290 billion).
Senate Republican leaders had hoped to vote on the bill Thursday so they could adjourn for a 10-day recess, but Sen. Mary Landrieu forced a one-day delay.
The Louisiana Democrat spent much of the evening arguing that the Senate, before leaving Washington, should allow $1.0 billion (euro830 million) already approved for Hurricane Katrina relief to be spent on public employee salaries. Landrieu said the first vote upon the Senate's return should be on redirecting an additional $14 billion (euro11.6 billion) for education, health care and small business relief.
Meanwhile, President George W. Bush said the United States and its allies had foiled at least 10 serious plots by the al-Qaida terror network in the last four years, including plans for Sept. 11-like attacks on both U.S. coasts.
In a speech designed to revive flagging public support for the war in Iraq, the president also said the U.S. and its partners have stopped at least five more efforts by al-Qaida to case targets or infiltrate operatives into the United States.
"Because of this steady progress, the enemy is wounded, but the enemy is still capable of global operations," Bush said Thursday. "Our commitment is clear: We will not relent until the organised international terror networks are exposed and broken, and their leaders held to account for their acts of murder."
Bush said Islamic radicals are seeking to establish a "radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia" with Iraq serving as the main front. He singled out Iran and Syria as "allies of convenience" for Islamic radicalism.
Pentagon officials released a letter Thursday evening they said was written from one terrorist leader to another that they said confirmed administration assertions that Iraqi insurgents have a detailed plan to force U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and create an Islamic state there.
Reuters adds: The U.S. military has increased its force in Iraq to 152,000 troops, about 14,000 above its usual level, to provide extra security for the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
U.S. commanders in recent weeks had stated the U.S. force would be increased by lesser numbers ahead of the referendum because of what they called the increasing capabilities of Iraqi security forces.