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Senators to Iraq: Political dawdling may risk U.S. military help

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The choice of Jawad al-Maliki broke the country's political deadlock.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Three U.S. senators plan legislation that will send a stark message to Iraqi politicians: Form a government quickly or risk losing U.S. military support.

Iraqi lawmakers have been in prolonged negotiations since the December 15 parliamentary elections to form a government, drawing criticism from many U.S. politicians for the slow pace.

Sens. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, said Tuesday the legislation they plan to introduce in Congress would place "significant pressure" on politicians in Baghdad.

"It would put the Senate on record as urging the president, for the first time, to specifically link the continued presence of American forces to the Iraqis meeting their own self-imposed deadline," Levin said. "That is an incredibly powerful message, if the president delivers it."

Iraqi lawmakers last weekend broke an impasse over the selection of a prime minister when President Jalal Talabani designated Jawad al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim politician, to the post.

However, that does not necessarily assure swift formation of a government.

Al-Maliki has 30 days to put together a government and present it for approval by the 275-member Council of Representatives, the new parliament.

But squabbling Iraqi lawmakers have missed other deadlines. And in this case, the parliament might reject the new government, a development that would prompt further delays.

Levin and the other senators want Iraqis to stay true to the 30-day deadline for al-Maliki and to another one as well -- the appointment of a commission to "propose amendments to the constitution to make it a more unifying document and to report those proposed amendments within four months."

"We need to link our continued military presence to the Iraqis making the political compromises which are essential if they are going to have a chance at defeating that insurgency and of avoiding that all-out civil war," Levin said.

The legislation would be an amendment to the pending supplemental appropriations bill. Levin said chances of passage are good because it is a bipartisan document.

The legislation would require President Bush to submit a report to Congress every 30 days on U.S. policy and political developments in Iraq until a national unity government is formed and the "Iraq constitution has been amended in a manner that makes it a unifying document."

Levin is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Collins and Reed are members of that committee.

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