Carol Moseley-Braun is a long-shot for the nomination
The first black woman elected to the US Senate, Carol Moseley-Braun, has announced her intention to enter the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.
"It is time to take the Men Only sign off the White House door," she said during a speech at the University of Chicago Law School, her former college.
Ms Moseley-Braun, who lost her Senate seat in 1998 after one term, is the only woman in a widening field of hopefuls for the 2004 presidential election.
Eight Democrats have formally declared their interest, including three Senators - John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts, and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Al Gore's running mate in the 2000 election.
Against Iraq war
The only other African-American candidate is black rights' activist Al Sharpton.
"I believe our country deserves leadership with vision," said Ms Moseley-Braun, announcing her plans to form a presidential campaign exploratory committee.
The 55-year-old criticised President George W Bush for his stance on Iraq, accusing him of squandering the goodwill the international community felt towards the US after the 11 September attacks.
"Rather than fritter that goodwill away in a rush to pre-emptory, unilateral military action, and in the process isolate us in a country on perpetual alert, we would do well to foster co-operation, to freeze the very ground in which extremism and terrorism festers," she said.
Ms Moseley-Braun was elected to the US Senate by Illinois voters in 1992 but failed to win a second term amid allegations she spent campaign funds on personal items.
Human rights groups also criticised her decision to visit the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.
Ms Moseley-Braun plans to file papers with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday to allow her to begin raising money for the presidential race.