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U.S. Democrat candidates call for withdrawal from Iraq in first official debate
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11:28, July 24, 2007

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The eight Democrats vying for the party's presidential nomination next year agreed on Monday night that the United States should withdraw its troops from Iraq, but differed on how.

The two-hour debate in Charleston, South Carolina, was the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2008 race sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee, and was sponsored by YouTube.com and CNN, which broadcast the debate live.

"At this point, I think we can be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in," said Illinois Senator Barack Obama, one of the front-runners.

Obama proposed a phased withdrawal that would see U.S. combat troops out by March 31 next year.

"But we have to send a clear message to the Iraqi government as well as to the surrounding neighbors that there is no military solution to the problems that we face in Iraq," he said.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton, another front-runner in the race, agreed that there was no military solution to the Iraq war.

"I happen to agree that there is no military solution, and the Iraqis refuse to pursue the political solutions," she said.

She called Republican lawmakers to join Democrats to force the president to start pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq.

"It's time for the Republicans to join us in standing up to the president to bring our troops home," she said.

Joseph Biden, senator from Delaware, said it would take one year to get the approximately 160,000 U.S. soldiers out of Iraq, and the withdrawal should be accompanied by a political solution.

"I'm the only one that's offered a political solution," he said.

Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio said Americans who voted Democrats to take control of both chambers of Congress in last November's elections "expected us to act quickly to end the war."

"When we took over in January, the American people didn't expect us to give them a Democratic version of the war. They expected us to act quickly to end the war," he said.

To end to war, he said, "doesn't take legislation. That's a phony excuse to say that you don't have the votes."

"We should tell President (George W.) Bush, no more funds for the war, use that money to bring the troops home, use it to bring the troops home," he said.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson proposed a six-month timeline to get all U.S. troops out of Iraq. "I believe we should bring all the troops home by the end of this year, in six months, with no residual forces -- no residual forces," he said.

"A hundred American troops are dying every month. And this war is a quagmire. It's endless," he said.

Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel also participated in the debate, which also dealt with religion, education, same-sex marriage, energy, the minimum wage and gun control as well as other issues.

A similar debate sponsored by CNN and YouTube for the nine Republican candidates is scheduled for Sept. 17.

The Democratic hopefuls have taken part in three "unofficial" debates this year, in addition to numerous other "forums" sponsored by various political constituencies.

Monday night's debate was the first of six sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee. The party's next official presidential debate is scheduled for Aug. 19 in Iowa, followed by one in New Hampshire in late September and four more in early-primary states after that.

Source: Xinhua

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