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Richardson wants a total Iraq pullout

WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson said yesterday he wanted a total withdrawal of US forces in Iraq and that American troops are targets in a civil war.

"I would leave no troops in Iraq whatsoever," Richardson said. "The difference between me and the other candidates is, they would leave troops there indefinitely, and I would not."

He said a US withdrawal should be used as leverage to promote a reconciliation conference of sectarian groups, an all-Muslim peacekeeping force , and a donor conference to rebuild Iraq.

Richardson says US troops should be redeployed by the end of the year to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. Other Democratic presidential candidates also advocate troop withdrawals but leave room for residual forces.

Obama turns to Powell
WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has sought out former secretary of state Colin Powell for advice on foreign policy matters.

While Powell served in the administrations of two Republican presidents, he said yesterday that it was too early in the 2008 race to say whether he would back the GOP nominee.

"I'm going to support the best person that I can find who will lead this country for the eight years beginning in January of 2009," Powell said.

Powell was secretary of state under President Bush and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman for the first President Bush.

Powell said he has met twice with Obama, the Illinois senator. "I've been around this town a long time and I know everybody who is running for office. And I make myself available to talk about foreign policy matters and military matters with whoever wishes to chat with me," Powell said.

Powell said he does not want to serve in elected office but was less certain about a return to some government post.

"I would not rule it out. I am not at all interested in political life if you mean elected political life. That is unchanged. But I always keep my eyes open and my ears open to requests for service," he said. (AP)

2d thoughts on straw poll
WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee suggested that he might change his mind about competing in the Iowa straw poll.

Huckabee said yesterday that for now, he intends to compete. But "if the front-runners aren't going to play, we all have to start assessing the impact and importance and what it would look like if we were to win it," the former Arkansas governor said.

Leading GOP candidates Rudy Giuliani and John McCain said last week they would skip the straw poll. That would leave only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney among the top-tier candidates planning to participate in what has been a traditional test of early strength.

Lesser-known candidates such as Huckabee, Senator Sam Brownback, and Representative Tom Tancredo said they would participate in the August straw poll and on Friday challenged Romney to a series of Iowa debates.

McCain and Giuliani said they still would compete in Iowa's caucuses. (AP)