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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 23:46 GMT

World: Americas

Bush condemns US isolationism

George W Bush opens a bridge with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo

United States presidential hopeful George W Bush has vowed to fight the spirit of isolationism in the Republican-led Senate that has plagued Bill Clinton.

George W Bush reveals his thinking on foreign policy to BBC Washington Correspondent Paul Reynolds
He also condemned Russia's seven-week campaign against separatist Islamist rebels in Chechnya.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC's Washington correspondent, Paul Reynolds, Mr Bush said the United States "must not retreat within our borders".

[ image:  ]
"As you know, there is a protectionist and isolationist sentiment in our country and I'm going to resist that sentiment madly because I believe that we can and must lead the world to peace.

"We can't do it alone, though."

In October, President Clinton denounced the Senate's rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as evidence of a "new isolation" that would damage the country's security interests.

Foreign affairs

Mr Bush, the leading contender for the Republican nomination to run for president in 2000, is the son of former president George Bush, who held office from 1989-1993.

Listen to George W Bush's interview with the BBC's Paul Reynolds in full
He spoke to the BBC in advance of his first major foreign policy speech, in which he will seek to disprove the critics who say he is not knowledgeable enough about foreign issues to hold the nation's top job.

In an earlier interview with a Boston television station, Mr Bush failed a pop quiz on the names of four foreign leaders.

[ image:  ]
Mr Bush joked that he knew he name of the UK's head of state - "I know (Tony) Blair" - and said he could understand why some thought he was not up to speed on foreign affairs.

"I've been a governor, and governors often times don't spend time on foreign policy. Although in my case as governor of Texas, I've spend a lot of time with Mexico and Mexican leaders."


He strongly criticised Russia over its military campaign in Chechnya, saying foreign aid should be suspended if Russian policy did not change.

[ image:  ]
He did, however, display some confusion over whether it was Russian or Chechen civilians who were coming under fire in the breakaway republic.

"I think Russia has stepped over the bounds. I think the idea of bombing innocent Russian women and children has stepped over the bounds of international norms.

"Plus there are over 200,000 refugees as a result of their 'dealing' with terrorism."

Presidential hopeufl George W Bush delivering his first foreign policy speech
He said Russia may well take offence at foreign intervention in what it regards as an internal matter, but the country has stepped beyond the "bounds of decency".

Russian President Boris Yeltsin has faced a barrage of criticism over Chechnya at a European security summit in Istanbul on Thursday, and cut short meetings with Western leaders after facing tough questions from President Clinton.

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