Sens. John Warner, R-VA, and Carl Levin, D-MI
Mark Wilson  /  Getty Images
 Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-VA) (L) seated next to incoming committee chariman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), is expected to begin today's confirmation hearing for Sec. of Def. nominee Robert Gates, with a call for President Bush to include Democrats in formulating Iraq war strategy plans.
updated 12/5/2006 7:59:42 AM ET 2006-12-05T12:59:42

A leading Senate Republican on defense issues, Sen. John Warner, will call on President Bush to solicit privately the opinions of Democrats before forging a new strategy on Iraq.

Warner in an opening statement Tuesday to Robert Gates' confirmation hearing as defense secretary will say there is a "moral obligation" for the president to seek out the views of Democrats.

A copy of the Virginia senators prepared remarks were obtained late Monday by The Associated Press.

Iraq options
Gates is being considered to take over the Pentagon as Bush is rethinking his policy in Iraq and awaits the recommendations of an independent bipartisan panel. Bush also launched an internal assessment of U.S. options and says he will consider both studies before making any decisions.

"After the President has had the opportunity to review these important reports, I respectfully recommend that he privately consult with the bipartisan leadership of the new Congress before making his final decisions," Warner said.

Warner later adds: "To me, this fulfills the moral obligation that our government has to the brave men and women of the armed forces and their families, who have sacrificed so very, very much in this fight for freedom," Warner said.

While several Republicans, including Warner, have urged a bipartisan approach in crafting a new Iraq policy, Warner's statement is the strongest indication yet that he and perhaps other key Republicans will challenge Bush when it comes to the war.

Warner is stepping down as chairman of the Armed Services Committee when Democrats take charge next year but is expected to remain a key player on the Iraq debate.

War effort 'drifting sideways'
Warner and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who will take over the panel next year, vowed to generate a bipartisan resolution or legislation that would address the situation in Iraq.

On Oct. 5, Warner returned from a trip to Iraq to declare the war was "drifting sideways." If the situation did not improve within the next three months, the U.S. must reconsider its options, he said.

"Regrettably, the levels of violence have continued to escalate, and the ability of Prime Minister (Nouri al-Maliki) and his government to exercise fully the reins of sovereignty remains an enormous challenge," Warner said in the prepared statement.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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