- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark said yesterday the United States must remain militarily engaged in Iraq but turn over rebuilding to a new international body tasked with creating a new Iraqi government.

Mr. Clark, a retired Army general, said the United States should apply the lessons he learned as commander of U.S. forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina and NATO forces in Kosovo to rebuilding Iraq.

In a speech at South Carolina State University, he proposed turning over command of the military operation to NATO, and creating a new international authority with responsibility for rebuilding.

“The Coalition Provisional Authority, by which America controls Iraq today, should be replaced. But it is simply unrealistic to have the United Nations take over this daunting task — it’s not able and it’s not willing,” he said.

“We must create a new international structure — the Iraqi Reconstruction and Democracy Council — similar to the one we created in Bosnia with representatives from Europe, the United States, Iraq’s neighbors, and other countries that will support our effort,” he said.

Mr. Clark also said President Bush has failed to attract critical international support; the candidate said he would work on contentious issues at which Mr. Bush has balked.

“Our allies would be more willing to help us on Iraq if we are willing to work together on issues of concern to them, like climate change, the International Criminal Court, and a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,” Mr. Clark said.

He also said Saddam “did pose a national security challenge” and was in violation of U.N. resolutions. But Mr. Clark said going to war was not justified because Iraq did not pose an imminent threat.

Mr. Clark and eight other Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Mr. Bush in 2004.

Yesterday, one of those challengers — former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean — got a prized endorsement from the 1.6-million member Service Employees International Union.

A formal announcement will come next week, but SEIU President Andrew L. Stern emerged from a union board meeting declaring Mr. Dean their candidate.

“We are hopeful that there are other unions who share our members’ excitement for Dr. Dean’s candidacy,” Mr. Stern said in a statement afterward.

The SEIU is the largest union in the AFL-CIO. Another large union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, also is considering endorsing Mr. Dean.

The SEIU endorsement caps a tumultuous few days for Mr. Dean.

He has taken a whipping from fellow candidates about his comments that Democrats should be courting “guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,” and issued an apology of sorts yesterday.

But Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and a fellow candidate for president, yesterday began a broad attack on Mr. Dean, using the Confederate flag comments as the root.

“I think Americans deserve straight talk. I think they ought to know who Howard Dean is,” Mr. Kerry said.

Mr. Dean, the front-runner in some of the early nomination contests, has found strong support among Democratic activists who opposed going to war in Iraq. But Mr. Kerry argued that Mr. Dean’s record of support from the National Rifle Association, as well as his previous support for cuts in Medicare, should make those activists think twice.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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