Page last updated at 21:17 GMT, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

McCain urges closer foreign ties

John McCain speaks to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, 26 March 2008
John McCain called on the US to listen to the views of its allies

John McCain has urged the US to work more closely with other nations, in his first big foreign policy speech as the likely Republican presidential nominee.

Senator McCain, who visited the Middle East and Europe last week, said: "Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want, whenever we want."

His foreign policy speech was seen as an attempt to distance himself from President George Bush's foreign policy. Meanwhile, Democrat Barack Obama attacked Mr McCain's economic policies.

Senator Obama and Hillary Clinton are competing to be the Democratic Party's choice to run for president in November's general election.

Mr McCain has already secured enough support in primary elections to be sure of being picked as the Republican Party's nominee.

'Safer future'

Mr McCain has emphasised his national security credentials but has been criticised by the Democrats for offering similar foreign policy ideas as the Bush administration.

America must be a model citizen if we want others to look to us as a model
John McCain

His speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council was seen as an effort to distance himself from President Bush and set out his own vision in foreign policy, correspondents say.

"We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies," Mr McCain said.

"If we lead by shouldering our international responsibilities and pointing the way to a better and safer future for humanity... it will strengthen us to confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism."

Mr McCain said the US must work to attract other nations to its cause by "demonstrating the virtues of freedom and democracy" and earning the trust of its allies.

He went on: "America must be a model citizen if we want others to look to us as a model."

This involves American behaviour at home as well as abroad, he said, and so the US must ensure that it does not "torture or treat inhumanely" captured terror suspects.

Mr McCain said he would close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and work with allies to "forge a new international understanding" on the detention of dangerous prisoners.

Economic woes

Mr McCain's foreign policy address came a day after he outlined his ideas to tackle the economic downturn in the US and help those people who have lost, or face losing, their homes as a result of the credit crunch.

Barack Obama in Medford, Oregon (22 March 2008)
Barack Obama is ahead of Hillary Clinton in terms of delegates won

On the campaign trail in North Carolina, which holds its primary on 6 May, Mr Obama criticised Mr McCain for what he called a "sit back and watch" approach.

"In his entire speech yesterday, he offered not one policy, not one idea, not one bit of relief to the nearly 35,000 North Carolinians who are forced to foreclose on their dreams in the last three months," Mr Obama said, speaking at a rally in Greensboro.

He also addressed the row over his former pastor, the Rev Jeremiah Wright, saying: "We can't afford to be distracted... every time somebody somewhere says something stupid that everybody gets up in arms and we forget about the war in Iraq and we forget about the economy."

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr McCain said he would "not play election-year politics with the housing crisis" but urged banks to pass on the help they have been given by the government to their struggling customers.

However, he signalled an intention to limit the role of federal government in assisting banks or small borrowers who behave recklessly.

"Any assistance must be temporary and must not reward people who were irresponsible at the expense of those who weren't," he said.

Mortgage plans

On Monday, Senator Clinton said the federal government should provide at least as much emergency help to families and communities hit by foreclosures as it did to the troubled US investment bank Bear Stearns.

She has previously called for a five-year freeze on interest rates for subprime mortgages, which often go to borrowers with poor credit ratings.

The economy has emerged as the number one concern of voters in the primary season so far.

In the Democratic contest, Mr Obama is ahead of Mrs Clinton in terms of the number of delegates won in the party's primary elections.

But their battle is set to go all the way to the Democratic Party's national convention in August, where delegates will choose the party's nominee to run in November's presidential election.

In another development, long-shot presidential hopeful Mike Gravel announced he is leaving the Democratic Party to seek the nomination of the Libertarian party.

Mr Gravel was excluded from recent Democratic presidential debates because he failed to reach the threshold either in terms of fundraising or in the opinion polls.

Electoral College votes

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