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Edwards raises his anti-war stand

Rob Christensen
McClatchy Newspapers

RALEIGH, N.C. - Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards stepped up his anti-war opposition Wednesday, calling for Congress to cut off funding for any troops in Iraq beyond the 100,000 troop level.

Edwards said such a move was the only way to prevent President Bush from putting another 20,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. He also called for withdrawing all combat troops over the next 12 to 18 months.

"We don't need debate," Edwards, a former senator, said in a statement released by his campaign headquarters in Chapel Hill. "We don't need non-binding resolutions. We need to end this war, and Congress has the power to do it. They should use it now."

Edwards's comments come at a time when the U.S. House is debating the president's war policy. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll released Tuesday found overwhelming support for congressional action to cap the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and set a timetable to bring them home by the end of next year.

Edwards has been positioning himself as the leading anti-war figure in the Democratic presidential primary. In what has been seen as an attack on his Democratic primary opponents, Edwards has said "silence is betrayal" on Iraq.

He has said that his own vote as a North Carolina senator to authorize the war was a mistake.

Edwards says there is only a political solution to the war in Iraq, in which all parties and regional powers are involved in mapping the country's future.

Edwards' plan would:

+ Cap funding for troops at 100,000 troops and begin the immediate draw down of 40,000 to 50,000 combat troops.

+ Prohibit funding to deploy US troops to Iraq that do not meet readiness standards.

+ Require a complete withdrawal of combat troops in 12 to 18 months without leaving behind any permanent US military bases.

After withdrawal, Edwards said, the U.S. should keep sufficient forces in the region to contain the conflict and "ensure that instability in Iraq does not spill over and create a regional war, a terrorist haven or spark a genocide."

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