Monday, February 12, 2007

PM stands by Obama attack. 12/02/2007. ABC News Online

PM stands by Obama attack. 12/02/2007. ABC News Online

PM stands by Obama attack

Prime Minister John Howard has defended his comments about United States presidential candidate Barack Obama's proposed policies.

The spat erupted when Democrat Senator Obama said he would like US troops out of Iraq by March 2008.

Mr Howard responded by saying that if he ran Al Qaeda, he would put a circle around March next year and pray for Senator Obama to win.

The attack on Senator Obama's plan has upset several US Democrats, including Senator Ron Wyden, who believes Mr Howard is meddling in US politics.

"The most charitable thing you can say about Mr Howard's comment is it's bizarre," Senator Wyden said.

"You know, we'll make our own judgements in this country with respect to elections and Barack Obama's a terrific public servant."

However, Mr Howard says the suggestion he is interfering in US politics is absurd.
Apology call

Labor argues Mr Howard has demeaned the alliance between the two countries, and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd believes the Prime Minister should apologise.

"I think Mr Howard went too far," Mr Rudd told Sky News.

"When we're dealing with something as important as the US alliance, Labor and Liberal leaders need to be very careful about what we say because we'll be dealing with an administration of either political persuasion in a year or so's time."

But Mr Howard says he will continue to criticise policies that work against Australia's interests.

"This is a world where people should be able to express their views," he said.

"I think the Labor Party is wanting to have double standards - it's OK to attack Bush on Iraq because they don't agree with him, but it's not okay for me to attack Senator Obama's position on one aspect of Iraq, because they hold to that view themselves."

Mr Howard has strong support from Liberal backbencher Cameron Thompson, who says the US Senator's plan to withdraw from Iraq is evil.

However, the Greens say Mr Howard has made a foolish diplomatic gaffe and should withdraw his comments.

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