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McCain won't concede on torture ban

Insists on language prohibiting cruel, inhumane treatment

WASHINGTON -- Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war who was tortured in Vietnam, yesterday said he will refuse to yield on his demands that the White House agree with his proposed ban on the use of torture to extract information from suspected terrorists.

''I won't," he said on NBC's ''Meet the Press" when asked whether he would compromise with the Bush administration.

He is insisting on his language that no person in US custody should be subject to ''cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."

The Arizona Republican said he had met several times with the president's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, on the issue. Both McCain and Hadley said yesterday they were working toward an agreement.

Hadley, on ABC's ''This Week," repeated President Bush's assertion that the United States does not torture and follows international conventions on the treatment of prisoners.

He added, ''We're trying to find a way . . . where we can strike the balance between being aggressive to protect the country against the terrorists, and, at the same time, comply with the law."

''We're working it. We're not there yet," he said on ''Fox News Sunday."

McCain, while saying that he would not compromise on the torture language, said they were in discussions ''about other aspects of this to try to get an agreement." He did not elaborate.

McCain, a Navy flier who was captured by the North Vietnamese and tortured during the Vietnam War, sponsored an antitorture measure that has passed the Senate by a 90-to-9 vote.

But the White House said it could not accept restrictions that might prevent interrogators from gaining information vital to the nation's security and has threatened a presidential veto of any bill that contained the McCain language.

McCain noted that intelligence gained through torture can be unreliable and he said the practice hurts the US reputation abroad.

Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on CNN's ''Late Edition" that McCain was on the right track.

''I'm hopeful that that position prevails," said Lugar, a Republican of Indiana.

The top Democrat on the committee, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, added that ''the way we've approached the whole issue of prisoners and treatment of them has caused us more problems than any information we could possibly have gotten."

Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, speaking on CBS's ''Face The Nation" said, ''We need a secretary of defense who thinks like John McCain."

Kerry said, ''I'm amazed Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld is still there. I believe Secretary Rumsfeld has misconducted this war in the most extraordinary way, from the first decisions about when and how to go in through the last 2 1/2 years."

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