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Candidate wants Saudi force to help in hunt for bin Laden
Date: 11/13/2003; Publication: The Columbian; Author: HOLLY RAMER, Associated Press
HANOVER, N.H. -- Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark said Wednesday he would ask Saudi Arabia to deploy commandos alongside U.S. troops in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders.
The retired four-star general said although the Bush administration was right to target al-Qaida after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it gave up too quickly and has spent too much time on Iraq.
"It's high time we got serious in finishing what we started," Clark said in a speech at Dartmouth College. "If I were president of the United States right now I wouldn't be proposing it, I'd be doing it."
Clark said he would start by pressuring Saudi Arabia to contribute to a joint U.S.-Saudi commando force to scour the Afghan-Pakistani border where bin Laden is thought to be hiding. He said that because many of the leaders of al-Qaida come from Saudi Arabia and many of the attacks are aimed at targets in Saudi Arabia, the country has a vested interest in stepping up cooperation with the United States in the hunt.
"It's time for real action from the Saudis to help take down al-Qaida," he said. "What we haven't done is use our leverage and connections with the Saudis to in turn leverage their connections in the region effectively."
Instead of ferreting out al-Qaida, the administration has focused its energy and resources on Iraq and downplayed more serious threats elsewhere, Clark said.
"It's been a world-class bait-and-switch," he said. "But diverting our attention won't make the problem go away."
Second, Clark proposed reassigning some of the intelligence specialists, linguists, and special-operations forces now searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction to the hunt for bin Laden.
"Let's face it: The hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is largely over," he said. "Let's cut our losses in pursuit of that."
Third, he said the United States needs to repair relations with allies and friends. $00:0300090278: $199:A0300090278 $01:Copyright 2003 The Columbian Publishing Co. $02:$?
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