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Senate Panel Approves Rival Plan on Tribunals

A key Senate committee defies President Bush on the question of how to try suspects in the war on terror. With four Republicans joining the Democrats, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved an alternative to the president's proposed rules.

The alternative, offered by Chairman John Warner of Virginia, would restore the suspects' rights under the Geneva Convention and international law.

The vote came after former Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a letter to one of the committee's senior Republican members, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

The former secretary and retired chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff took strong exception to the president's proposal, saying it would undermine the moral basis for America's war on terror -- and backfire on U.S. troops overseas.

The events interrupted a day when the president had expected to advance his bid for more authority in dealing with terror suspects. President Bush visited House Republicans Thursday to discuss his proposal for trying terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Discussing his alternative plan, Sen. Warner said that he merely tried to come up with legislation that will pass the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, which the Bush administration's previous court plan failed to do.

Sen. Carl Levin, the panel's top Democrat, said protecting U.S. troops is the chief concern of those who helped craft the alternative legislation.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.