- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 26, 2004

President Bush’s campaign team yesterday called Sen. John Kerry’s claims to have met the entire U.N. Security Council before voting to authorize the Iraq war the latest example of making false statements to embellish his foreign-policy record.

Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman likened Mr. Kerry’s claim to have met with the Security Council to a similarly unsubstantiated assertion that he met with “foreign leaders” who endorsed him for president.

“First, John Kerry told us about secret meetings with unnamed foreign leaders to bolster his campaign,” Mr. Mehlman said, responding to an article yesterday in The Washington Times. “Now, we learn he touted made-up meetings with the United Nations Security Council in the second debate to justify his vote for the war.”

On the campaign trail in the Midwest yesterday, Vice President Dick Cheney, recounting the article, said Mr. Kerry “apparently talked to a few individuals up on the Security Council, but there was never a meeting with all of them.”

“What I see is somebody who … now is trying to put a new gloss on his record,” Mr. Cheney told a rally in Wilmington, Ohio.

“It is troubling that John Kerry would fabricate meetings with United Nations Security Council members to score political points on an issue as important as sending our troops to war,” Mr. Mehlman added.

Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart yesterday insisted that his boss met with representatives of the Security Council, although he stopped short of repeating Mr. Kerry’s claim to have met with “all” members of the 15-nation council.

While avoiding comment on the substance of the story, Mr. Lockhart said its impact on the election was limited to conservative Web sites.

“I read all the right-wing blogs over the weekend about the blockbuster story,” he said. “I don’t imagine this story’s going anyplace.”

But conservatives on the campaign trail were taking the story to heart.

When describing the article to a crowd in Moorhead, Minn., Mr. Cheney said “So the problem here I think is …”

“He’s a liar,” yelled out an audience member, interrupting the vice president.

Mr. Cheney chuckled and said, “Now the press is going to attribute that to me.”

At issue is Mr. Kerry’s claim in the second presidential debate earlier this month that he met with the entire Security Council before voting for a congressional resolution authorizing war against Iraq in October 2002.

“This president hasn’t listened,” Mr. Kerry said. “I went to meet with the members of the Security Council in the week before we voted. I went to New York. I talked to all of them, to find out how serious they were about really holding Saddam Hussein accountable.”

But ambassadors from Mexico, Colombia, Bulgaria and a fourth nation that wished to remain nameless said nobody from their U.N. missions met with Mr. Kerry in the week before the vote. The Times was able to confirm Kerry meetings with representatives of only France, Cameroon and Singapore, although he reportedly also met with Britain.

Mr. Mehlman suggested the article went to the heart of an issue that Mr. Kerry has made the centerpiece of the presidential campaign — his own veracity.

“John Kerry has spent much of his campaign attacking President Bush over diplomacy,” he said. “Now we know that he has not been talking honestly about his encounters with United Nations Security Council members.

“He has shown once again that he will say or do anything to be elected, even mislead the American people on the foundation of his political attacks,” he added.

The second debate was not the first time Mr. Kerry claimed to have met with the Security Council. He made the same assertion in December 2003, during a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Specifically, Mr. Kerry said he met “with the entire Security Council, and we spent a couple of hours talking about what they saw as the path to a united front in order to be able to deal with Saddam Hussein.”

However, a U.N. spokesman said: “Our office does not have any record of this meeting.” An official at the U.S. mission also was mystified by Mr. Kerry’s claim of a meeting.

A representative of France disputed Mr. Kerry’s claim of a single meeting with all 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, saying instead the Massachusetts Democrat held several one-on-one or small group encounters.

Last week, the Kerry campaign initially stood by the candidate’s claim of a single meeting with the entire U.N. Security Council. But when pressed for elaboration, the campaign issued a less-definitive statement that said Mr. Kerry “met with a group of representatives of countries sitting on the Security Council.”

The statement added: “It was a closed meeting and a private discussion.”

In March, Mr. Kerry claimed to have secured the endorsements of unnamed foreign leaders.

“I’ve met with foreign leaders who can’t go out and say this publicly,” he said. “But boy, they look at you and say: ‘You’ve got to win this. You’ve got to beat this guy. We need a new policy.’”

After an investigation by The Times cast doubt on this claim, a Kerry official said the candidate “does not seek, and will not accept, any such endorsements.”

• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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