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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 February, 2004, 17:46 GMT
Democrats blast Bush over Haiti
John Edwards (left) and John Kerry
The two front-runners will have to convince Super Tuesday voters
The top US Democratic candidates in the race for the presidential nomination have accused the Bush administration of neglecting strife-torn Haiti.

The condemnation by John Kerry and John Edwards came during a TV debate with rivals Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich.

They will face key primary contests on "Super Tuesday" next week.

More than half the 2,162 votes needed for the nomination are at stake in 10 states, including California, New York, Ohio and Georgia.

Referring to President Bush's response to the Haiti crisis, Senator Kerry, the Democrat front-runner, said: "He's late, as usual".

Senator Edwards said Mr Bush had "ignored Haiti, as much in the same way he's ignored much of the countries in this hemisphere".

The hour-long debate was broadcast by CBS on Sunday.

Kerry under fire

Mr Kerry was targeted by angry Vietnam veterans on Saturday.

In front of the his New York headquarters, several hundred US army veterans and members of Vietnamese groups protested against his opposition to the Vietnam war decades ago.

Jerry Kiley, a veteran and one of the protest organisers said, "we won't let the American people think that we are going to stand by somebody who stabbed us in the back".

He had a better reception from former New York governor, Mario Cuomo and his son Andrew, who both endorsed him for the Democratic nomination.

'Good closer'

Senator Edwards, who has an uphill task to beat Mr Kerry, has been in Georgia, Ohio and Minnesota - states that his advisers believe offer him the best chance of catching up.

KEY CAMPAIGN DATES
2 March - 'Super Tuesday' primaries held in 10 states, including California, Georgia, New York, Ohio
9 March - Primaries in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas
26-29 July - Democrat national convention in Boston
30 Aug-2 Sep - Republican national convention in New York
2 Nov - Presidential election

The North Carolina senator believes he can still close the gap and shrugged off polls that show he is behind Mr Kerry in all 10 states voting on Tuesday.

"I am a good closer. I expect we will continue up through Tuesday," he told reporters in Georgia.

Mr Edwards, a former lawyer, said he believed his debating skills would help swing opinion in his favour.

"I think I need to be strong and just show the country that I am ready to be president and that there are real differences between John Kerry and John Edwards," he said.

"If they want change in the country, John Edwards will bring it to them."




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