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Published: Monday, 8/2/2004

Kerry says he'd slash troop level in Iraq

BY MAEVE RESTON
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry pledged yesterday that if he were elected president, he would make "a significant, enormous reduction in the level of troops" in Iraq during his first term without undercutting efforts to create a stable democracy in Iraq.

As he faced mounting questions about how his plans for brokering the peace in Iraq would differ from those of President Bush, Mr. Kerry made the comments during a round of Sunday talk shows yesterday morning.

He also said that his foreign policy credentials, as a man who has been to war and a U.S. senator for 20 years, should inspire confidence in the American people that if he were at the helm, he could open new doors of diplomacy and negotiate a peace in Iraq that the Bush administration has not.

Mr. Kerry and running mate John Edwards did separate taped interviews with CBS, CNN, ABC, and Fox, all of which were broadcast yesterday.

"I've been involved in this for a long time, longer than George Bush," Mr. Kerry said on the ABC news program This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

"I know that as president there's huge leverage that will be available to me, enormous cards to play," he said, defending himself against criticism that his plans for Iraq have been vague.

In recent days, Senator Kerry has not spoken at length about his plans for Iraq in his stump speeches

But since last year, Mr. Kerry has given a series of detailed speeches on Iraq. He has advocated a far greater role by NATO, efforts to internationalize the non-Iraqi reconstruction personnel in Iraq, an accelerated training program for Iraqi security forces, and efforts to persuade U.S. allies to forgive Iraq's debt to loosen up funds to help rebuilding efforts.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Maeve Reston is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact Maeve Reston at: mreston@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1889.



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