Republican hopefuls talk tough on Iran, immigration
By Tony Czuczka Jun 6, 2007, 1:15 GMT
Manchester, New Hampshire - Republican Party presidential candidates took tough stands Tuesday on Iran's nuclear programme, the Iraq war and immigration into the United States as they duelled over hot-button topics likely to figure in 2008 elections.
California Congressman Duncan Hunter, a defence expert running on a homeland-security platform, set himself apart from the nine other hopefuls by saying that the US might have to use nuclear weapons to destroy Iran's centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
'I would authorize the use of tactical nuclear weapons if there was no other way to preempt those particular centrifuges,' Hunter said during the third nationally televised Republican debate of an election season that has begun unusually early.
Most contenders rejected calls by their centre-left Democratic Party rivals for a swift US troop withdrawal from Iraq, politely criticizing President George W Bush's handling of the war but giving few specifics on how they would handle the issue as president.
Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who polls say is ahead in the race for the centre-right Republican nomination, and top rival John McCain, a US senator who strongly backed sending in more American troops, agreed that failure in Iraq would threaten US security.
Giuliani, 63, was the most forceful on whether Bush was right to order the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
'Absolutely the right thing to do,' said Giuliani, whose prominence derives heavily from his leadership of New York City after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 'Iraq is part of the overall terrorist war against the United States.'
McCain agreed that it was right to invade Iraq but conceded problems.
'This war was very badly mismanaged for a long time. ... This is long and hard and tough, but I think we can succeed,' said McCain, 69, a prisoner of war in Vietnam who sought the centre-right presidential nomination in 2000.
As co-sponsor of a compromise plan in the US Senate to reform immigration policy, McCain drew fire from several more conservative Republicans on the stage.
Most controversially, the McCain proposal would open a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million or more immigrants illegally living in the US, requiring them to pay a fine, learn English and meet other conditions. The main focus is on immigrants from Latin America, especially neighbouring Mexico, who do many menial jobs for lower wages than US citizens.
Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Congressman campaigning on platform of tougher immigration rules, said the United States' survival as a nation was at stake. Without firm action against illegal immigration, the US could 'split apart into a lot of Balkanized pieces,' he said.
Giuliani called the McCain-backed plan 'a typical Washington mess' built on compromises. To plug one key loophole, he said all foreigners in the US should have tamper-proof identification and be entered into a national database, he said.
'It should be in a database that allows you to figure out who they are, why they're here, make sure they're not illegal immigrants coming here for a bad purpose, and then to be able to throw out the ones who are not in that database,' Giuliani said.
Mitt Romney, 60, a former governor of Massachusetts state who has positioned himself to the right of Giuliani and McCain, also criticized the immigration plan.
McCain defended the measure, which Bush has urged Congress to approve.
'And if someone else has a better idea,' he said, 'I'd love to have them pursue - give it to us.'© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur