Dean mounts foreign policy challenge with pledges on Israel and Korea

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The Independent US

Howard Dean, who is leading the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, is to spell out starkly different approaches to those of President George Bush on foreign policy, including a willingness to address swiftly border issues between Palestine and Israel and enter bilateral talks with North Korea.

The former governor of Vermont is to lay out his foreign policy priorities in a major speech to the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles today. He is expected to reveal a "kitchen cabinet" of advisers on foreign affairs, many drawn from the Clinton White House. The Dean camp is striving to dispel criticism that the candidate has little grasp of foreign policy beyond berating Mr Bush for invading Iraq without international support. The address will also aim to cast him as a centrist on foreign affairs, willing to use force where necessary but committed to multilateralism.

He also set himself apart from Mr Bush, whom he accused of having a "tin ear" on dealings with foreign governments, in comments made to the Washington Post this weekend. He said: "This president has forfeited our moral leadership in the world because people dislike us so much."

Mr Dean, referring to the nuclear weapons crisis in North Korea, said he would abandon Mr Bush's stance of refusing to engage directly with the country's leadership and would offer a "package deal" to Pyongyang that would include economic aid, energy assistance and a "non-aggression pact" in return for an undertaking that it would dismantle its nuclear programme.

He said he would revive the Geneva Accord that intends to resolve final border issues between Israel and Palestine before pushing further with the troubled road-map for peace in the region.

In Los Angeles today, the candidate is due to disclose that Tony Lake, the former national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, is among those he has assembled to advise him on foreign policy. He is also expected to give details of plans to create a multi-billion-dollar international fund to combat terrorism around the world.

The speech will also attempt to undo the "peacenik" reputation that Mr Dean may have earned, notably by his opposition to the war in Iraq.