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Stabilize Afghanistan Before Attacking Iraq, Gore Advises

July 26, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Al Gore told young Democrats Thursday that he supports the overthrow of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein but questioned whether the invasion of Iraq is a good idea while the future stability of Afghanistan remains in question.

"I think the principle of 'first things first' does apply and has to be followed if we are to have any chance of success," the former vice president said in a visit to Capitol Hill he described as his first since leaving office.

Gore, the 2000 Democratic nominee for president, made the comments to a group called 21st Century Democrats at the Dirksen building near the Capitol, where many senators have their offices.

In a low-key discussion with more than 500 young Democrats who packed into the conference room, Gore mixed in some jokes during his criticism of the Bush administration's economic plans and foreign policy.

He criticized the president for frequently threatening to topple Hussein.

"I certainly question why we would be publicly blustering and announcing an invasion a year or two years in advance," Gore said, noting that some officials had leaked battle strategy documents.

"What was that all about?" Gore said to laughter.

He praised President Bush's response to the Sept. 11 attacks but said the administration has made mistakes recently in Afghanistan, notably in not allowing a sufficient number of international peacekeepers to prevent the country from drifting back toward the control of warlords.

Gore also said:

* People should compare the current economic problems with conditions under President Clinton, adding: "We had the strongest economy in history."

* Deficits are the result of the Bush administration's economic policy and tax cuts, not Sept. 11.

* Questionable practices in corporate accounting can be compared with current practices in federal government accounting.

* He will make a decision by year's end whether to run for president in 2004.

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