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Sept. 11 victims' kin urge Bush to pull ads

NEW YORK -- A group representing 120 families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks called on President Bush's reelection campaign yesterday to withdraw political advertising using images of the attack's aftermath.

The commercials to promote Bush's reelection include video of firefighters carrying a flag-draped stretcher through the rubble of the World Trade Center and footage of a fireman's funeral.

"I am outraged at the Republicans for doing this, and I don't like my son being used as a political pawn," said Robert McIlvane, a member of the group called Sept. 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, which held a press conference in Manhattan.

McIlvane, of Oreland, Pa., lost his 26-year-old son, Bob, a Merrill Lynch & Co. vice president, in the attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.

The Bush campaign issued a statement yesterday from Rudolph Giuliani, who was New York's mayor at the time of the attacks, defending the president.

"His leadership on that day is central to his record," Giuliani said in the e-mailed statement.

Bush cited the Sept. 11 attacks in campaign speeches at fund- raisers in Santa Clara, Calif., yesterday and Los Angeles Wednesday. "We saw war and grief arrive on a quiet September morning," Bush said. "So we pursued the terrorist enemy across the world."

Speaking to a crowd of 2,000 at a campaign rally in New Orleans, Senator John F. Kerry whipped the audience into a frenzy of booing as the presumptive Democratic nominee denounced Bush for using images of the Sept. 11 attacks in his new reelection ads.

"George Bush wants this whole deal just to be about war," Kerry said. "His first advertisements had pictures of ground zero."

The Massachusetts senator added: "You're all good strategists down here; you understand why he's doing that. He can't come out there and talk about jobs. He can't come out here and talk to you about protecting the environment."

Patrick Healy of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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