John McCain turns his fire on rival

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The Independent US

John McCain fired the starting gun on his campaign against Barack Obama last night by attacking the Democrat's perceived weak spot of foreign policy, and distancing his own campaign more than ever from George Bush's administration.

"You will hear from my opponent's campaign in every speech, every interview, every press release that I'm running for President Bush's third term," Mr McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee told a rally in New Orleans last night.

"You will hear every policy of the President described as the Bush-McCain policy. Why does Senator Obama believe it is so important to repeat that idea over and over again? Because he knows it is difficult to get Americans to believe something they know is false. So he tries to drum it into your minds."

The Arizona Senator, who is 71 compared to Mr Obama's 46, also tried to lay claim to the "change" agenda, which has so far been the centrepiece of his youthful opponent's White House bid. "[Obama] is an impressive man who makes a great first impression," Mr McCain said, but "he hasn't been willing to make the tough calls, to challenge his party, to risk criticism from his supporters to bring real change to Washington. I have."

Hinting at an early battleground, the Vietnam veteran concentrated on foreign policy. He attacked Mr Obama's stance on Iraq and his willingness to hold talks with the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Americans ought to be concerned about the judgement of a candidate who's ready to talk, in person and without conditions, with tyrants from Havana to Pyongyang, but has not travelled to Iraq to meet [the US Army's] General Petraeus," he said.

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