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Contenders in US Presidential Race Agree on Pakistan Danger

Candidates for the U.S. presidential nominations often focus on domestic matters, but they turned their attention recently to several international issues. Democrats clashed over the war in Iraq and over what some called "saber rattling" against Iran. And on Pakistan, candidates from both political parties said they fear the South Asian nation could fall to Islamic extremists. VOA's Jim Fry has more in one of a series of occasional reports on foreign policy issues and the campaign.

The U.S. presidential candidates who spoke out mostly agreed on the crisis in Pakistan.

As baton wielding police in Lahore put down demonstrations by the country's lawyers, the U.S. candidates raised concerns over President Pervez Musharraf's suspension of Pakistan's constitution.

"This is the most dangerous and complex relationship we have," said Democratic Senator Joe Biden.

"It's one of of the most potentially dangerous situations in the world for us right now," expressed Former Republican Senator Fred Thompson.

Both candidates expressed worries that extremists could take over the country. "This is a nuclear country," said Former Republican Senator Fred Thompson. "We could face a real nightmare scenario by seeing these radical elements or terrorist sympathizers take control of that government."

On other foreign policy issues, supporters of frontrunner Hillary Clinton gave the senator a pair of boxing gloves after she clashed repeatedly with other Democrats.

The New Yorker repeatedly clashed with fellow Democrats at a debate on several issues, including foreign policy matters.

"She voted for a war to authorize sending troops into Iraq and later said this was a war for diplomacy," said her closest competitor, Senator Barak Obama.

At issue was Clinton's refusal to clearly state that as president she would order U.S. troops out of Iraq, even though she criticizes Republicans for supporting President Bush.

"They want to continue the war in Iraq. I want to end it," Clinton said.

Clinton also faces attacks for her vote on a resolution that some say paves the way for war with Iran. The Bush administration backed the measure labeling the elite Republican Guard a terrorist organization.

Former Senator John Edwards said, "We have to stand up to this president. We need to make it absolutely clear that we have no intention of letting Bush, Cheney or this administration invade Iran."

"I am in not in favor of this rush to war," said Clinton, "but I am also not in favor of doing nothing. Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the forefront of that."

"We have emboldened Bush, at a minimum -- his talk of World War 3 - totally irresponsible talk," said Biden. "We've emboldened him ... to be able to move if he chooses to move."

Democrats also battled over whether states should issue drivers' licenses to immigrants who are in the country illegally. That is what New York Governor Elliot Spitzer says his state will do.

"Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do?" asked Clinton. "No. But do I understand the real sense of desperation trying to get a handle on this?"

Obama replied, "I was confused on Senator Clinton's answer. I can't tell whether she was for it or against it."

Republican candidates, including former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani and former Senator Thompson, have joined in the attack. "I think giving drivers licenses to illegals is a bad idea," says Thompson.

The candidates, regardless of their political affiliation, often think their opponents' ideas are bad. That is one reason why, at this stage of the campaign, the contenders seldom speak out on foreign affairs except to appeal to specific interest groups.