Former Army General Wesley Clark announced Wednesday that he is joining the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates looking to challenge President Bush next year in the 2004 race for the White House.

Aides to General Clark say he made his decision to enter the 2004 race after meeting with political advisors in his home state of Arkansas. Some of those advisors include veterans of the Clinton-Gore campaigns of the 1990s.

Former President Clinton was among those Democrats urging Wesley Clark to get into the race, even though Mr. Clinton is not endorsing anyone in the Democratic field.

Wesley Clark explained his interest in running for president in a recent interview with CBS television. "I am very concerned about the direction this country is taking, both abroad and at home," he said. "I think we need strong leadership that has got a vision that is going to take this country in the right direction."

General Clark will become the 10th Democrat to seek the party nomination to take on President Bush next year. He brings an impressive military resume to the race, but his lack of political experience and his late entry into the campaign could be a serious disadvantage in a field that already includes several experienced Washington politicians.

General Clark was the NATO commander in the 1999 war in Kosovo and has criticized the president for his handling of the war in Iraq and its aftermath.

Meanwhile, another Democratic candidate officially began his campaign for the White House.

Even though he has been running for months, North Carolina Senator John Edwards made his official announcement in the small town of Robbins, North Carolina, where he was raised.

"We will, we must, work the world to win the war on terrorism and to finish the job in Iraq," he said. "We must not fail in this mission. But we need a president who will unite the world in the war on terror and the fight for security because we are all in this together and we can never, ever forget it."

Senator Edwards supported the president's request last year to use military force in Iraq. But like the other Democrats in the race, he has criticized the administration for alienating U.S. allies and the United Nations in the lead up to the war and for a lack of planning about the war's aftermath.

Senator Edwards has been lagging in public opinion polls and his advisors hope his formal announcement will breathe new life into his presidential campaign.