WASHINGTON (AP) – House Democratic leaders intend to propose legislation requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the fall of 2008, and even earlier if the Iraqi government fails to meet security and other goals, congressional officials said last night.

The conditions, described as tentative until presented to the Democratic rank and file, would be added to legislation providing nearly $100 billion the Bush administration has requested for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the officials said.

The legislation is expected on the floor of the House later this month, and would mark the most direct challenge to date the new Democratic-controlled Congress has posed to the president’s war policies. As such, it is likely to provoke a fierce response from the administration and its Republican allies in Congess.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office announced plans for a news conference this morning to unveil the measure, without providing any of the details. It said she would be joined by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and other key lawmakers. Murtha is chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Pentagon’s budget and is among the House’s most outspoken opponents of the war.

But Democrats familiar with the emerging legislation said the bill would require President Bush to certify that the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was making progress toward providing for his country’s security, allocating its oil revenues and creating a fair system for amending its constitution.

They said if Bush certified the Iraqis were meeting these so-called benchmarks, U.S. combat troops could remain until September of next year. Otherwise, the deadline would move up to the end of 2007.

The officials who described the details did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to speak before the measure is presented to the rank and file. They stressed that the specific provisions in the legislation were tentative pending approval by the caucus.

The legislation also calls for the Pentagon to adhere to its standards for equipping and training U.S. troops sent overseas and for providing time at home between tours of combat.

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