DEMOCRAT leaders in the United States' House of Representatives have proposed legislation that would bring American combat troops out of Iraq by August 2008 at the latest.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, wants the proposal approved next week in the House Appropriations Committee as part of a $100 billion (51 bn) bill to continue funding the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If it is approved, the full House would debate the measure the following week.
"Our troops are out by no later than August of 2008" under the legislation, Mrs Pelosi told reporters.
The proposal is a challenge to President George Bush, who has ordered extra troops into Iraq to try to stabilise the country, and opposes withdrawal deadlines.
A House aide said that Mr Bush would not be able to waive or extend that deadline if the proposal becomes law. But Senate opposition could stop the legislation.
The plan provides for US troops to withdraw even sooner if the situation does not improve in Iraq. If Mr Bush could not certify progress toward ending violence there, withdrawals would begin in July of this year and be complete by 31 December.
The measure would allow some troops to stay to train Iraqi soldiers and protect American diplomatic facilities.
But an influential group of liberal Democrats, which wants a complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by 31 December this year, said they would oppose their leadership's plan and push for their own legislation.