Democrats and Republicans line up to oppose troop 'surge'

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The Independent US

Senate Democrats claimed to be closing in last night on a single agreed resolution with Republicans opposing President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq, in what would be a stinging post-State of the Union rebuke to the White House.

Party leaders were working last night to merge a Democratic resolution, drawn up by Joseph Biden, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with one offered by John Warner, a Republican grandee and a former chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Though non-binding, such a vote would leave Mr Bush more isolated in his arguments for a 21,500 boost in US forces in Iraq.

In his address, the President again defended his strategy on the grounds that it provided the best chances of success. "America must not fail in Iraq - because the consequences of failure would be grievous and far reaching," he said.

But he could soon be repudiated by a substantial majority in the Senate. The Biden and Warner proposals were "very, very close," said Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader. "We are working to see if we can meld them."

The worry for the White House is that any text endorsed by Mr Warner would embolden other Republicans, especially those facing tough re-election campaigns in 2008, to come out directly against the Administration.