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Democrats present goals, few details

Sharpening their election-year message, leading Democrats on Wednesday released a plan that promised to strengthen America's security but offered few details about how they would achieve their sweeping goals.

On Iraq, the plan -- echoing language recently approved by Congress -- said Democrats would "ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition . . . with Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country."

But it established no timetables, or even targets, for reducing the U.S. military commitment.

The Democrats also pledged to rebuild the military, "eliminate" terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, improve homeland security, free America from reliance on foreign oil by 2020 and pressure Iraq's feuding political factions to establish a national unity government.

The agenda "will take America in a new direction, one that is tough and smart," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The plan, called "Real Security," is part of a Democratic effort to clarify the party's message for voters before the November midterm elections.

By focusing on national security policies before detailing their ideas on traditional party priorities such as health care or education, the Democrats signaled their desire to neutralize an issue that has been President Bush's core political strength since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But the Democratic plan provoked a coordinated flurry of counterattacks from leading Republicans.

"Their behavior has been totally inconsistent with what they're now promising they're going to do," Vice President Cheney said in an interview on radio.

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