WASHINGTON, Nov 25: Democrats on Saturday promised to help ‘forge a new direction’ in Iraq when they take control of the US Congress in January from President George Bush’s Republicans.

They also vowed to clean up the scandal-rocked Congress, raise the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade and address such concerns as the rising cost of education, health care and energy.

“This we will do, and much more -- not because we believe in the infinite wisdom of government, but because we believe in the innate goodness of our people and the promise of a brighter future in the land that we all love,” Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said in delivering his party's weekly radio address.

Mr Hoyer, elected by Democratic colleagues to be House majority leader in the 110th Congress that convenes on Jan 4, said his party would reach out to Republicans as it seeks to help all Americans.

“More than 40 years ago, our 35th president -- John F. Kennedy -- perhaps said it best: ‘Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future’,” Mr Hoyer said.

Democrats won control of the House and Senate on Nov 7 in elections that saw voters demand change, particularly in Iraq, which slid further toward civil war this week after bombs killed 202 people in a Shia area.

Democrats have promised to push for a phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq beginning within months. Mr Bush has opposed any timetables, but has agreed to consider a new approach.

Mr Hoyer said: “We will work with the president and our Republican colleagues in Congress to forge a new direction in Iraq -- because, clearly, the current strategy is not working.”

“Sectarian violence continues to rage,” Mr Hoyer said. “Our brave servicemen and women continue to be maimed and killed. And the war is not making our nation safer or more secure.” —Reuters

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