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Jones Responds To Critics After Calling For Timetable For Withdrawal From Iraq

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Walter Jones
GREENVILLE, N.C. — U.S. Congressman Walter Jones carefully signs letters to families of North Carolina troops killed in Iraq.

"It's like part of my religion," the Republican from North Carolina told WRAL's Mike Charbonneau.

That's a quiet task for him, especially in comparison to the international spotlight he garnered this week after he joined a bipartisan group and called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

"We need to take a fresh look at where we are and where we want to go," he said Saturday while in Greenville. "That's really all this resolution does. It is a vehicle for debate and discussion."

The proposal calls on President Bush to announce a plan, by the end of the year, to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq by October 2006.

Jones said it does not put a timeline on when to bring all the troops home. Jones' current position may surprise some of his supporters. He was one of the President's staunchest supporters when he voted to invade Iraq.

Some of his constituents have asked: How can someone who was such a strong supporter of the war in the beginning, now be a strong voice for pulling troops out?

"Because my mind is open," Jones said. "I don't want to see our troops in Iraq for ten or fifteen years. I want Iraqis to defend themselves."

Jones' district includes Camp Lejeune, which has sent thousands of Marines to Iraq since the war began. So far, more than 100 of those Marines have been killed.

"We have defeated an evil man," Jones said, "and I think our troops have performed magnificently."

But, Jones said, he voted to send troops to Iraq because he believed the nation had weapons of mass destruction.

"If I had known that that was not true at the time we voted two years ago," he said, "I wouldn't have voted to go into Iraq."

The White House said that putting a timeline on any troop withdrawal would send the wrong message to the enemy.

"I think they're wrong," Jones said. "I don't think they read the resolution."

Jones will get the chance to meet with some of the people he represents in Jacksonville this weekend.

Then, Jones said, he will head back to Washington to work on getting more support for the resolution.

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