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US Democratic Presidential Hopeful Obama Vows to Pursue Terrorists in Pakistan

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama said Wednesday he would be willing to send U.S. troops into Pakistan to hunt down terrorists without permission from the government of President Pervez Musharraf. Senator Obama made the comments in a foreign policy speech in Washington, as we hear from VOA National correspondent Jim Malone.

Obama focused on how he would fight the war on terrorism if he were elected president in November of next year.

The Illinois Democrat said President Bush has become distracted from the main war on terrorism by the war in Iraq.

Obama said he would be prepared to send U.S. troops into Pakistan's northwest frontier region to hunt al-Qaida terrorists and the Taleban even if denied permission by the Pakistani government.

"Now I understand that President [Pervez] Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear," he said. "There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. If we have actionable intelligence about high value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will."

Obama also said he would make pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq his first priority as president.

Obama said President Bush has confused the U.S. mission against the terrorists by focusing too much on the war in Iraq and plunging the U.S. into the middle of a civil war.

"He is fighting the war that the terrorists want us to fight," he said. "Bin Laden and his allies know they cannot defeat us on the field of battle or in a genuine battle of ideas. But they can provoke the reaction we have seen in Iraq, a misguided invasion of a Muslim country that sparks new insurgencies and ties down our military."

At the White House, presidential spokesman Tony Snow said the U.S. remains committed to working with President Musharraf in going after suspected terrorist havens.

"We think that our approach to Pakistan is one that not only respects the sovereignty of Pakistan, as a sovereign government, but is also designed to work in a way where we are working in cooperation with the local government," said Snow.

Obama's foreign policy speech came one week after a back and forth public debate with his main rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, about the use of diplomacy to deal with U.S. adversaries abroad.

Clinton said Obama was irresponsible and naïve to offer to meet with leaders of countries hostile to the U.S. like Iran, Cuba and North Korea without preconditions.

Obama responded that Clinton's approach sounded like what he called "Bush-Cheney Lite," and said Clinton had been irresponsible and naïve when she supported the use of force against Iraq.

The intensifying battle between Clinton and Obama is overshadowing the other six Democrats in the race, including Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.

Biden trails behind both in the polls and in fundraising, but says many Democrats have yet to decide on a presidential candidate for 2008.

"The truth is, no one has made up their mind yet in the Democratic Party," he said. "And the truth is, I believe at the end of the day, ideas matter more than money."

In the latest national poll, Clinton has expanded her lead over Obama for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. The Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found Clinton leading Obama by a margin of 43 to 22 percent, with former North Carolina Senator John Edwards in third place with 13 percent support.

But new polls in early contest states like New Hampshire and South Carolina show Obama making gains at Clinton's expense.