WASHINGTON - A historic veto showdown assured, Democratic leaders agreed yesterday on legislation that requires the first U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by Oct. 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

"No more will Congress turn a blind eye to the Bush administration's incompetence and dishonesty," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a speech in which he accused President Bush of living in a state of denial about events in Iraq more than four years after the U.S.-led invasion.

Bush, confident of enough votes to sustain his veto, was unambiguous in his response. "I will strongly reject an artificial timetable [for] withdrawal and/or Washington politicians trying to tell those who wear the uniform how to do their job," he told reporters in the Oval Office as he met with his top Iraq commander, Gen. David Petraeus.

Taken together, the day's events marked the quickening of a confrontation that has been building since Democrats took control of Congress in January and promised to change policy in a war has claimed the lives of more than 3,200 U.S. troops. *