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Bradley and Gore clash over abortion

AS THE Republican Party's would-be presidential nominees slugged it out before today's Iowa straw poll, an ugly spat erupted between the two contenders for the Democratic nomination on a topic that more often raises tempers on the right: abortion.

Bill Bradley, who is proving an unexpectedly strong challenger to Vice- President Al Gore, called on his rival to clarify his position on taxpayer- funding for abortion after giving two contradictory statements in four days. In the first, Mr Gore indicated that he opposed federal funding for abortion unless the life of the woman was in danger. In the second, he appeared more flexible.

Mr Bradley said: "It took the Vice-President's staff four days to research his record. That would not be necessary with me because my record on reproductive rights for women is quite clear. I have always believed a woman should have the right to choose, whether she is rich or poor, and my record has been consistent on this issue for 20 years."

Although Mr Gore professes himself "pro-choice", the issue is not straightforward for him. As senator for Tennessee, where anti-abortion sentiment is strong, he had to tread. Some constituents accuse him of abandoning an early anti-abortion stance for Democratic advancement.

Mr Bradley had earlier contested Mr Gore's record on calling for the reform of political funding. Last week, he tackled Mr Gore's aim of outlawing "racial profile" stop-searches by police as his first presidential act of the 21st century. Mr Bradley told a black audience: "I say: Why wait?"