Eight Democratic presidential candidates have sharply criticized President Bush's Iraq war policy during the first debate of the 2008 campaign.

The candidates also discussed differing views on health care, and U.S. foreign policy in the debate Thursday at a university in the southeastern state of South Carolina. But they were unanimous in calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq during the nationally televised event.

Front-runner Senator Hillary Clinton of New York told the audience that as president she would get the United States out of Iraq. But former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina said Clinton and others who voted to authorize the war should "search" themselves. Edwards, who also voted for the invasion, has since apologized, while Clinton has not.

Speaking about other foreign policy issues, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois said the United States must get engaged to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said the country should also begin to look east, and recognize China as a major competitor, though not an enemy.

The other five contenders are Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska and Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters