Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cantwell Raises Her Profile on Iraq War

"Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Tuesday that she will travel to Iraq with three other senators to serve as an official election observer.

Cantwell will meet with troops from Washington state, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, U.S. military officers and high-ranking Iraqi officials during the three-day visit.

She left Tuesday for Iraq aboard a military aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base, accompanied by Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

The delegation will visit several polling places on Thursday, the final day of voting as Iraq elects a new parliament.

In statement before leaving, Cantwell said she was one of 79 senators calling for 2006 to be "a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty," with Iraqi forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq.

"The elections in Iraq are an important act of democracy and an initial milestone for independence," she said, adding that President Bush and Congress must do a better job "making sure that troops are trained, infrastructure is secured and the international community is engaged to help the new government that emerges on Thursday stand on its own two feet."

Cantwell, who voted in favor of the war in 2002 and has supported all measures to fund it, has drawn criticism from state Republicans, who accuse her of flip-flopping on the war.

Cantwell voted in favor of a Democratic amendment last month calling for a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq."-from the AP.

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