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Democrats Launch Convention with Calls for Party Unity

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Prominent Democrats addressed the U.S. Democratic National Convention Monday, the start of a four-day event that culminates with the nomination of Barack Obama as the first African-American presidential nominee for a major political party.

The convention in Denver, Colorado, featured a touching salute to ailing party icon, Senator Edward Kennedy, who told delegates he would not have missed the chance to pass the torch to Obama as candidate for president of the United States.

Before Kennedy addressed delegates, a video paid tribute to his support, and that of his two assassinated brothers, for civil rights. Kennedy is recovering from a malignant brain tumor, and his appearance brought a sustained roar from the crowd of thousands.

Senator Obama's wife Michelle told the forum she believes Obama will be an "extraordinary president." Their two young daughters appeared on stage with her. Obama greeted his wife and children from a video link from Kansas City, Missouri.

Party leaders are urging unity, following a bitter primary campaign during which Obama defeated Senator Hillary Clinton. Some of Clinton's supporters remain upset she lost the nomination, while others are upset Obama did not select her to be his vice-presidential running mate.

Earlier Monday, Clinton spoke to a meeting of Hispanic Democrats and urged party unity. The Clinton campaign has indicated she will release her delegates in a gesture of unity so they may vote for Obama.

Earlier, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, praised Clinton, saying the party and the country were strengthened by her candidacy.

The convention consists of four days of rallies, speeches and meetings, capped by Obama's acceptance speech on Thursday.

The Republican Party holds its national convention next week in Minnesota. That four-day gathering ends with the nomination of Senator John McCain as party nominee.

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