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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
Republican hopefuls back Iraq war
Republican contenders John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney
The key contenders are (from L) McCain, Giuliani and Romney
Contenders for the Republican nomination for the US presidency have held their first TV debate, with most giving broad support for the Iraq war.

The 10 candidates were sparing in their criticism of President George W Bush in the debate held in California.

Sen John McCain was once a front-runner but has trailed ex-New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani for several months.

Mr Giuliani registered the biggest policy difference with his lone support for abortion rights.

On another issue, three of the candidates said they did not believe Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

The Democrats held the opening debate of their campaign a week ago.

War 'mismanaged'

The Republican debate, on the US cable news channel MSNBC, took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

The key issue was Iraq.

The BBC's David Willis, in Los Angeles, says the war is unpopular with the bulk of the US but the majority of Republican primary voters support it.

Sam Brownback
Jim Gilmore
Rudolph Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
Duncan Hunter
John McCain
Mitt Romney
Ron Paul
Tom Tancredo
Tommy Thompson

Sen McCain of Arizona, who backed Mr Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, probably came the closest to criticising the president, our correspondent says.

Sen McCain said the war had been "terribly mismanaged" and that "we now have to fix a lot of the mistakes that were made".

But he added: "Now I think it's on the right track... we have a new strategy and a new general and these young men and women are committed to winning."

Mr Giuliani was equally robust in his support of the military mission in Iraq.

And the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, who is vying to become the first Mormon to be elected president, warned of chaos in the region if US troops left too soon.

But Texas congressman Ron Paul questioned the administration's policies.

"Don't get into it for political reasons or pretend the Iraqis were a national threat to us," he said.

Another key issue was abortion.

The majority of Republicans oppose its legalisation.

Mr Giuliani was the only candidate who said he would support the Supreme Court if it upheld a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.

When the candidates were asked if they did not believe the theory of evolution, Sen Sam Brownback, former governor Mike Huckabee and Rep Tom Tancredo raised their hands.

Some conservative thought promotes "intelligent design" or creation by a higher being as an alternative to Darwin.

Our correspondent says that whoever wins the Republican nomination may face an uphill task getting themselves elected.

The rival Democrats are currently comfortably ahead in the polls.

Select from the list below to view state level results.

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