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In N.H., two Democratic candidates downplay impact of vote

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Even as House members solemnly voted on what some called a historic resolution condemning the Iraq war, two Democratic presidential contenders campaigning in New Hampshire yesterday dismissed the vote's importance.

Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico said the Democrat-led House and Senate were "wasting" their time debating nonbinding resolutions over troop deployment levels because such resolutions would do little to change the situation in Iraq.

"Look, I served in Congress for 15 years, so I know what they are trying to do," Richardson said in an interview. "I know this is getting a lot of headlines, but it does nothing to change the reality in Iraq or the fact this president is just not listening to them."

Meanwhile, another Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, told business leaders at a "Politics and Eggs" breakfast in Bedford that he believed the nonbinding resolutions wouldn't do much to change Iraq.

"This was debating about debating," said Dodd. "The fact is we need a new policy in Iraq, and none of these resolutions do that."

Democratic presidential preference polls in early primary states suggest the support for Richardson and Dodd is in the single digits behind Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina .

Richardson, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, has emphasized his foreign-policy experience. He said every candidate's plan for Iraq -- whether from a Republican or Democrat -- must answer the question of how to get the country on the road to becoming a sovereign nation.

"It is not good enough to say 'Let's get the troops out' or 'We don't support the surge,' " said Richardson. "Because then the question is, then what? You must provide a plan on what to do after the troops leave."

Asked whether the congressional nonbinding resolutions were irresponsible, Richardson said, "Let's just say that is not the way I would do it."

If he were in Congress today, Richardson said, he would favor the idea from another Democratic presidential contender, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, to vote on legislation to withdraw the president's ability to use force in Iraq.

Richardson said he would remove all combat troops from Iraq by Dec. 31 in conjunction with summits with Iraqi factions in order to build a government.