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US Republican Presidential Candidates Debate War, Immigration

Ten candidates for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination faced off Tuesday evening on a variety of issues ranging from Iraq to immigration during a televised debate in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire.

Senator Sam Brownback used the debate Tuesday to call for a three-state solution to the Iraq war. He said he will propose legislation in the Senate Wednesday to divide Iraq into three regions controlled separately by Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

Senator John McCain instead urged Americans to give the current U.S. war strategy a chance to succeed. He said he knows Americans are frustrated with the progress of the war, but he warned the enemy would follow U.S. troops home if they fail.

Both men admitted they had voted to authorize the military invasion of Iraq without reading the formal National Intelligence Estimate in advance, drawing some criticism from their rivals.

The candidates also debated a bipartisan immigration reform plan backed by the White House. Former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts criticized the bill, saying it unfairly allows illegal immigrants to stay in the country.

The bill would enforce border security and allow an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the United States to be eligible for legal status.

Congressman Tom Tancredo said the consequences of the bill could be "disastrous."

Also participating in the debate were former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. He was joined by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Governors Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin and Jim Gilmore of Virginia, and congressmen Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter.

Former senator Fred Thompson, an eleventh potential candidate, did not participate in the debate.

A new opinion poll (Washington Post-ABC News) has found Giuliani leading among the Republican candidates with 34 percent support. McCain is next at 20 percent.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.