Kerry attacks Bush's 'arrogant' diplomacy

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The Independent US

President Bush's Democratic Party challenger, John Kerry, sharpened his criticisms of the administration's policies in Iraq yesterday, denouncing the White House as "stunningly ineffective in diplomacy" and saying only a change of president could re-establish US credibility around the world.

President Bush's Democratic Party challenger, John Kerry, sharpened his criticisms of the administration's policies in Iraq yesterday, denouncing the White House as "stunningly ineffective in diplomacy" and saying only a change of president could re-establish US credibility around the world.

In his first full-length television interview since winning his party's presidential nomination, Senator Kerry sought to answer charges that he had himself flip-flopped in his support for the war and that he was unrealistic in expecting the UN or Nato to step into the Iraqi miasma and achieve stability.

Under a barrage of tough questioning from NBC's Tim Russert, the dean of US political interviewers, Mr Kerry sounded more impassioned than on some recent occasions. But he arguably remained more effective at attacking the Bush administration than he was at suggesting alternatives.

"Our diplomacy has been about as arrogant and ineffective as anything that I have ever seen, and if you ask people all around the world, that's exactly what they'll tell you," he said. "You cannot bring other nations to the table through the back door," he said. "You cannot have America run the occupation, make all the reconstruction decisions, make the decisions of the kind of government that will emerge, and pretend to bring other nations to the table."

He welcomed the appointment of UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi as the broker of a new government, but said Iraq's neighbours were not properly informed of the decision - a lack of diplomatic foresight - and that the transfer of control to the UN did not go far enough because the US was refusing to relinquish control of the political process and of reconstruction.

Mr Kerry acknowledged that now was a bad time to try to persuade the UN or Nato to take over from the US occupying force, but he blamed Mr Bush for missing three crucial opportunities to bring them on board earlier - before the war started, at the moment that Baghdad fell last April, and again last autumn when Mr Bush went to the UN but did not indicate any willingness to share the Iraqi burden with America's traditional allies. He said what was needed now was "a breath of fresh air" that could most easily be provided by a change of president.

Mr Kerry resisted a detailed account of what he would do if elected, saying much would depend on the situation he found on January 20, 2005. But he made a powerful case for multilateralism as practised by the president's father, George Bush senior.

"Within weeks of being inaugurated," he said, "I will return to the UN and I will literally, formally rejoin the community of nations and turn over a proud new chapter in America's relationship with the world."

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