US Republican presidential candidates focus on Iraq
May 4, 2007 - 12:43:53 PM

Washington, May 4 - Ten Republican candidates competing for the party's presidential nomination gathered for their first televised debate of the 2008 campaign, focusing on the Iraq war, abortion rights and the Reagan legacy.

With no exception, all the 10 candidates in the debate, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, supported the Iraq war, called for lower taxes and strong defence.

'We must win in Iraq. If we withdraw, there will be chaos, there will be genocide, and they will follow us home,' said Arizona Senator John McCain, a leading Republican candidate.

But the war has been 'badly mismanaged for four years', he said.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, another leading candidate in the Republican field, said: 'We should never retreat in the face of terrorism. Terrible mistake.'

Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, said he believed that everything President George W. Bush did in the war against terror 'flows from a desire to protect the American people and to make our future secure.

'But I will go to work not only to win the war on terror as it relates to Iraq and Afghanistan, but on a global basis,' he promised.

Their views on Iraq were in sharp contrast with those expressed by Democratic candidates at a debate last week. All eight Democratic contenders promised they would bring the war to an end at the debate held in South Carolina.

Most Republican candidates also said they were opposed to legislation increasing federal funds for wider embryonic stem cell research, despite the presence in the audience of Nancy Reagan, widow of former US president Ronald Reagan, who was a big supporter of the science.

On abortion, Giuliani, an advocate for abortion rights, said it would be 'OK' if the Supreme Court upholds a 1973 landmark ruling for abortion rights and it would also be 'OK' if the ruling was repealed. But other candidates agreed that it would be 'great day' if the ruling was overturned.

Besides McCain, Giuliani and Romney, others participating in the debate were Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, Representatives Tom Tancredo of Colorado, Ron Paul of Texas, and Duncan Hunter of California and three former governors - Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, James Gilmore of Virginia and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin.

Recent polls showed that Giuliani led other Republican candidates in public support, followed by McCain, while Romney, trailing them in national polls, raised more money than any of his Republican rivals in the first three months of this year.

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