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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Key points: Kerry-Bush debate
Here are the key issues debated by US President George W Bush and his Democratic challenger John Kerry in the first of three televised debates in the run-up to November's election.

John Kerry: I have a better plan to be able to fight the war on terror by strengthening our military, strengthening our intelligence, by going after the financing more authoritatively, by doing what we need to do to rebuild the alliances, by reaching out to the Muslim world, which the president has almost not done.

George W Bush: We pursued al-Qaeda wherever al-Qaeda tries to hide. Seventy-five percent of known al-Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice. The rest of them know we're after them.

John Kerry: First of all, he made the misjudgement of saying to America that he was going to build a true alliance, that he would exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and go through the inspections...

He also promised America that he would go to war as a last resort...

You've got to be able to look in the eyes of families and say to those parents, "I tried to do everything in my power to prevent the loss of your son and daughter."

I don't believe the United States did that...

But this president hasn't even held the kind of statesman-like summits that pull people together and get them to invest in those states...

Scene of a US attack on Falluja
Kerry said he could do a better job in Iraq
When the Secretary General Kofi Annan offered the United Nations, he said, "No, no, we'll go do this alone."

To save for Halliburton the spoils of the war, they actually issued a memorandum from the Defence Department saying, "If you weren't with us in the war, don't bother applying for any construction."

George W Bush: That's totally absurd. Of course, the UN was invited in.

My opponent says we didn't have any allies in this war. What's he say to Tony Blair? What's he say to Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland? You can't expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side by side with American troops in Iraq...

John Kerry: When we went in, there were three countries: Great Britain, Australia and the United States. That's not a grand coalition. We can do better.

George W Bush: In Iraq, we saw a threat, and we realised that after 11 September, we must take threats seriously, before they fully materialise. Saddam Hussein now sits in a prison cell. America and the world are safer for it.

Jim Lehrer: What about... the priorities of going after Osama Bin Laden and going after Saddam Hussein?

George W Bush: We've got the capability of doing both.

As a matter of fact, this is a global effort.

We're facing a group of folks who have such hatred in their heart, they'll strike anywhere, with any means...

That's why it's essential that we make sure that we keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of people like al-Qaeda, which we are...

Of course we're after Saddam Hussein - I mean Bin Laden. He's isolated.

John Kerry: The president just talked about Iraq as a centre of the war on terror. Iraq was not even close to the centre of the war on terror before the president invaded it.

The president made the judgment to divert forces from under General Tommy Franks, from Afghanistan, before the Congress even approved it, to begin to prepare to go to war in Iraq.

And he rushed the war in Iraq without a plan to win the peace.

John Kerry: What kind of message does it send to be sending money to open firehouses in Iraq, but we're shutting firehouses who are the first-responders here in America...

The president hasn't put one nickel, not one nickel into the effort to fix some of our tunnels and bridges and most exposed subway systems...

Ninety-five percent of the containers that come into the ports, right here in Florida, are not inspected.

World Trade Center
Homeland security was a key issue
Does that make you feel safer in America?

This president thought it was more important to give the wealthiest people in America a tax cut rather than invest in homeland security...

George W Bush: I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap...

My administration has tripled the amount of money we're spending on homeland security to $30bn a year.

John Kerry: The test is not whether you're spending more money. The test is, are you doing everything possible to make America safe?

We didn't need that tax cut. America needed to be safe.

George W Bush: Of course we're doing everything we can to protect America. I wake up every day thinking about how best to protect America.

George W Bush: Let me first tell you that the best way for Iraq to be safe and secure is for Iraqi citizens to be trained to do the job...

And so the best indication about when we can bring our troops home... is to see the Iraqis perform and to see the Iraqis step up and take responsibility.

When our general is on the ground and Ambassador Negroponte tells me that Iraq is ready to defend herself from these terrorists, that elections will have been held by then, that their stability and that they're on their way to, you know, a nation that's free - that's when.

John Kerry: And I believe our troops need other allies helping. I'm going to hold that summit. I will bring fresh credibility, a new start, and we will get the job done right.

George W Bush: My opponent says help is on the way, but what kind of message does it say to our troops in harm's way, "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time"? Not a message a commander-in-chief gives, or this is a "great diversion".

As well, help is on the way, but it's certainly hard to tell it when he voted against the $87bn supplemental to provide equipment for our troops, and then said he actually did vote for it before he voted against it. Not what a commander-in-chief does when you're trying to lead troops.

George W Bush: Because we achieved such a rapid victory, more of the Saddam loyalists were around. I mean, we thought we'd whip more of them going in... I thought they would stay and fight, but they didn't.

And now we're fighting them now. And it's hard work.

John Kerry: What I think troubles a lot of people in our country is that the president has just sort of described one kind of mistake.

But what he has said is that, even knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction, even knowing there was no imminent threat, even knowing there was no connection with al-Qaeda, he would still have done everything the same way.

John Kerry: We know that he promised America that he was going to build this coalition. I just described the coalition. It is not the kind of coalition we were described when we were talking about voting for this.

The president said he would exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and go through that full process. He didn't. He cut it off, sort of arbitrarily.

And we know that there were further diplomatic efforts under way. They just decided the time for diplomacy is over and rushed to war without planning for what happens afterwards.

Now, he misled the American people in his speech when he said we will plan carefully. They obviously didn't. He misled the American people when he said we'd go to war as a last resort. We did not go as a last resort. And most Americans know the difference.

George W Bush: He said I misled on Iraq. I don't think he was misleading when he called Iraq a grave threat in the fall of 2002.

I don't think he was misleading when he said that it was right to disarm Iraq in the spring of 2003.

I don't think he misled you when he said that, you know, anyone who doubted whether the world was better off without Saddam Hussein in power didn't have the judgment to be president. I don't think he was misleading.

I think what is misleading is to say you can lead and succeed in Iraq if you keep changing your positions on this war. And he has.

John Kerry: We had inspectors and television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea... And we knew where the fuel rods were. And we knew the limits on their nuclear power.

Colin Powell, our secretary of state, announced one day that we were going to continue the dialogue of working with the North Koreans. The president reversed it publicly while the president of South Korea was here.

John Kerry and George Bush
They pair disagreed on containing North Korea
And the president of South Korea went back to South Korea bewildered and embarrassed because it went against his policy. And for two years, this administration didn't talk at all to North Korea.

While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods came out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras were kicked out.

That happened on this president's watch.

George W Bush: Before I was sworn in, the policy of this government was to have bilateral negotiations with North Korea...

And so I decided that a better way to approach the issue was to get other nations involved, just besides us.

And so we began a new dialogue with North Korea, one that included not only the United States, but now China. And China's a got a lot of influence over North Korea, some ways more than we do.

As well, we included South Korea, Japan and Russia. So now there are five voices speaking to Kim Jong-Il, not just one.

And so if Kim Jong-Il decides again to not honour an agreement, he's not only doing injustice to America, he'd be doing injustice to China, as well.

George W Bush: I hope we can... continue to work with the world to convince the Iranian mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

We worked very closely with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Great Britain, who have been the folks delivering the message to the mullahs that if you expect to be part of the world of nations, get rid of your nuclear programs.

The IAEA is involved. There's a special protocol recently been passed that allows for inspections.

John Kerry: With respect to Iran, the British, French and Germans were the ones who initiated an effort without the United States, regrettably, to begin to try to move to curb the nuclear possibilities in Iran. I believe we could have done better.

I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes. If they weren't willing to work a deal, then we could have put sanctions together.

The president did nothing.

George W Bush: I admire the fact that he is a great dad. I appreciate the fact that his daughters have been so kind to my daughters in what has been a pretty hard experience for, I guess, young girls, seeing their dads out there campaigning.

John Kerry: I think only if you're doing this - and he's done it more than I have in terms of the presidency - can you begin to get a sense of what it means to your families. And it's tough. And so I acknowledge that his daughters - I've watched them.

I've chuckled a few times at some of their comments.

George W Bush: I'm trying to put a leash on them.

John Kerry: And I have great respect and admiration for his wife. I think she's a terrific person... and a great first lady.

John Kerry: There's some 600-plus tons of unsecured material still in the former Soviet Union and Russia. At the rate that the president is currently securing it, it'll take 13 years to get it.

Now, there are terrorists trying to get their hands on that stuff.

And this president, I regret to say, has secured less nuclear material in the last two years since 9/11 than we did in the two years preceding 9/11.

George W Bush: We've increased funding for dealing with nuclear proliferation about 35% since I've been the president.

Secondly, we've set up what's called the - well, first of all, I agree with my opponent that the biggest threat facing this country is weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist network.

And that's why proliferation is one of the centrepieces of a multi-prong strategy to make the country safer.

John Kerry: My fellow Americans, as I've said at the very beginning of this debate, both President Bush and I love this country very much. There's no doubt, I think, about that.

But we have a different set of convictions about how we make our country stronger here at home and respected again in the world.

I know that for many of you sitting at home, parents of kids in Iraq, you want to know who's the person who could be a commander-in-chief who could get your kids home and get the job done and win the peace.

And for all the rest of the parents in America who are wondering about their kids going to the school or anywhere else in the world, what kind of world they're going to grow up in, let me look you in the eye and say to you: I defended this country as a young man at war, and I will defend it as president of the United States.

US presidential debate
Millions watched the two men joust for votes
But I have a difference with this president. I believe we're strongest when we reach out and lead the world and build strong alliances.

I have a plan for Iraq. I believe we can be successful. I'm not talking about leaving. I'm talking about winning. And we need a fresh start, a new credibility, a president who can bring allies to our side.

I also have a plan to win the war on terror, funding homeland security, strengthening our military, cutting our finances, reaching out to the world, again building strong alliances.

I believe America's best days are ahead of us because I believe that the future belongs to freedom, not to fear.

That's the country that I'm going to fight for. And I ask you to give me the opportunity to make you proud. I ask you to give me the opportunity to lead this great nation, so that we can be stronger here at home, respected again in the world, and have responsible leadership that we deserve.

Thank you. And God bless America.

George W Bush: If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. That's not going to happen, so long as I'm your president.

The next four years, we will continue to strengthen our homeland defences. We will strengthen our intelligence-gathering services. We will reform our military. The military will be an all-volunteer army.

We will continue to stay on the offence. We will fight the terrorists around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.

We'll continue to build our alliances. I'll never turn over America's national security needs to leaders of other countries, as we continue to build those alliances.

And we'll continue to spread freedom. I believe in the transformational power of liberty. I believe that the free Iraq is in this nation's interests. I believe a free Afghanistan is in this nation's interest.

And I believe both a free Afghanistan and a free Iraq will serve as a powerful example for millions who plead in silence for liberty in the broader Middle East.

We've done a lot of hard work together over the last three and a half years. We've been challenged, and we've risen to those challenges. We've climbed the mighty mountain. I see the valley below, and it's a valley of peace.

By being steadfast and resolute and strong, by keeping our word, by supporting our troops, we can achieve the peace we all want.

I appreciate your listening tonight. I ask for your vote. And may God continue to bless our great land.





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