Gore and Bush want Arafat to act

Honours shared in presidential candidates' televised debate
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Al Gore and George W. Bush both declared strong support for Israel and called on the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, to restrain the violence rocking the Middler East last night as they stepped gingerly around foreign policy issues in a televised campaign debate. Gore also called on the Syrian government to press for the release of three Israeli soldiers who have been captured by Hezbollah militia forces in Lebanon, where Syria is the main power. Through the first half hour of their 90-minute second debate, the two presidential hopefuls disagreed over several past US interventions abroad and sparred over the Clinton administration's handling of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The rivals, locked in a tight, back-and-forth race for the White House, met on a stage at Wake Chapel on the campus of Wake Forest University. They have a final debate next week. Their running mates, Republican Dick Cheney and Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman, met last week for their only debate of the campaign. Asked by televi

Al Gore and George W. Bush both declared strong support for Israel and called on the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, to restrain the violence rocking the Middler East last night as they stepped gingerly around foreign policy issues in a televised campaign debate. Gore also called on the Syrian government to press for the release of three Israeli soldiers who have been captured by Hezbollah militia forces in Lebanon, where Syria is the main power. Through the first half hour of their 90-minute second debate, the two presidential hopefuls disagreed over several past US interventions abroad and sparred over the Clinton administration's handling of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The rivals, locked in a tight, back-and-forth race for the White House, met on a stage at Wake Chapel on the campus of Wake Forest University. They have a final debate next week. Their running mates, Republican Dick Cheney and Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman, met last week for their only debate of the campaign. Asked by television journalist Jim Lehrer, who controlled issues taken up in the debate, about the Middle East, Gore said, "We need to insist that Arafat send out instructions to halt some of the provocative acts of violence that have been going on." Bush, given a chance to answer the same question, began by saying that in times of tension overseas, "We ought to be speaking with one voice. I appreciate the way the administration has been working to calm the tensions." He also said the United States ought to call on Arafat "to have his people pulled back." Gore defended the administration's handling of Iraq's Saddam. Bush, whose father was president during the Gulf War, declared that the "coalition against Saddam is unraveling ... sanctions are being violated." If Saddam is developing weapons of mass destruction, he said, "There are going to be consequences if I'm president." The focus on foreign policy was a rarity for the campaign, in which the two candidates have clashed repeatedly over domestic issues such as tax cuts, health care, Medicare and Social Security. But with the peace process in jeopardy in Israel and a Yugoslavia fresh from a popular uprising, the debate became something of a foreign policy exam for two men vying to become commander-in-chief of the most powerful nation in the world. That tested Bush's knowledge of foreign affairs, said by Democrats to be a weakness. When Lehrer rattled off a list of military commitments in recent years, Gore said he agreed with each of the decisions Clinton had made. Bush dissented from the decision to send troops to Haiti, and said the mission in Somalia, started by his father, President George Bush, had gone wrong when it turned from peacekeeping to "nation building." When it came to Rwanda, Bush said the Clinton administration "did the right thing" by not acting to stop ethnic violence there that eventually killed more than half a million people. However, Clinton has said he regretted his lack of action, and Gore said "in retrospect, we were too late." Bush, who has said the U.S. military is overextended, was asked where he would bring U.S. troops home. He mentioned the Balkans - although he said he wouldn't set a timetable - and Haiti. Actually, the Clinton administration acting under pressure from Congress brought nearly all U.S. troops home from Haiti earlier this year. Gore picked up on this when his turn came, noting, there was "only a handful" of U.S. forces left in Haiti. While they differed on some points, the two presidential rivals men took care to avoid snapping at one another in the foreign policy debate - and Gore jettisoned the audible sighs that he used in their first debate to register disagreement with comments made by Bush. So tame were the proceedings, that at one point, Bush said, "it seems like we're having a big love fest." On another foreign policy issue, Bush said it was "important for this nation to develop an anti-ballistic missile system that we can share with our allies in the Middle East, if need be, to keep the peace." He did not elaborate. But neither the administration nor Republican national missile defense advocates in Congress have specifically advocated sharing such a system with countries in the Middle East. Clinton earlier this year caused a bit of a stir when he suggested that the technology be shared with European allies. In the first debate, instant polls showed Gore rated higher, but Bush has gained in surveys since then. Wednesday's debate was nearly half over before Lehrer turned his attention to domestic issues. Both candidates expressed disdain for racial profiling, but disagreed over whether Congress should pass a hate crimes law. Gore said he supports such a law, saying, "I think these crimes are different," because they are based on prejudice and hatred. He then brought up the case of James Byrd, a black man who was dragged to his death by three whites in Jasper, Texas, as an example of why a hate crimes law is needed. But Bush said he saw no need for such a law. The state of Texas has a hate crimes law, he said. "The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what's going to happen to them? They're going to be put to death. The jury found them guilty. It's going to be hard to punish them any more after they've been put to death." Despite Bush's assertion, two of the three drew the death penalty and a third got a life term.

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