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Clinton urges party to back Obama

Hillary Clinton urges her supporters to get behind Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton has called on Democrats to unite behind Barack Obama as the party's presidential candidate, saying she was his "proud supporter".

Speaking at the party's nominating convention, Mrs Clinton said they could not afford to lose to the Republicans.

"Whether you voted for me or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose."

Mr Obama, who beat Mrs Clinton in the primary race, will formally accept the party's nomination on Thursday night.

He will stand against Republican John McCain in the presidential election on 4 November.

Mrs Clinton, who was given a standing ovation as she took the stage, thanked those who supported her through her primary campaign but said Mr Obama was now "my candidate".

"We are on the same team, and none of us can sit on the sidelines," she said.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Obama and Clinton agreed on 90% of issues and are both miles above McCain
petit_ minou, New Jersey, US

The party could not afford "to see another Republican in the White House squander the promise of our country and the hopes of our people", she said.

Mrs Clinton talked of the reasons why she fought to win the nomination - including creating a universal and affordable health care system, fighting for an America defined by equality, and restoring the US's standing in the world.

"Those are the reasons I ran for president. Those are the reasons I support Barack Obama. And those are the reasons you should too," she said.

She described Mr McCain as "my colleague and my friend" but went on to attack his record and links with President George W Bush.

"We don't need four more years of the last eight years," she said.

Mr Obama watched the speech from Montana and said it was an "outstanding" appeal for Democratic unity.

Mrs Clinton delivered the compulsory appeal for party unity but no one knows if it will be enough to change the minds of die-hard Hillary supporters, some of whom have threatened to vote for Mr McCain, says the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Denver.

If Mr Obama wins in November, her speech will be remembered as a gracious salute from a defeated rival; if he loses, then this may be interpreted as the first speech of Campaign 2012, our correspondent says.

'Deep faith'

Giving the convention's keynote speech beforehand, ex-Virginia Governor Mark Warner said Mr Obama was the leader the US needed in the "race for the future".

We need Barack Obama as the next president of the United States
Mark Warner
Former Governor of Virginia

"We need a president who understands the world today, the future we seek, and the change we need," he said.

He also attacked Mr McCain as promising "more of the same" as the Bush administration.

Mr Warner is running for a Senate seat in Virginia, targeted as an important swing state by the Democrats in November.

He commented on the daunting prospect of speaking after the last convention keynote speaker - Mr Obama in 2004 - and before Mrs Clinton in 2008, but said Americans should let hope replace fear.

"Tonight, looking out at all of you, and with a deep faith in the character and resolve of the American people, I am more confident than ever that we will win that race and make the future ours," he concluded.

Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean sought earlier to dampen criticism that the convention so far had been too soft on Mr McCain, saying there was still "plenty of time" for tough-talking.

He also played down suggestions of a rift between supporters of Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton, saying there was "not a unity problem".

Personal tensions

Mrs Clinton had already thrown her political weight behind Mr Obama and also dismissed suggestions that the party was divided.

But opinion polls suggest that despite her repeated statements of support for Mr Obama, some of her supporters say they would rather vote for Mr McCain than for her former rival.

John McCain speaks to veterans in Phoenix, Arizona, 26 Aug 2008
Some Democrats feel the party needs to focus its attack on Mr McCain

A poll from CNN/Opinion Research Corp suggests American voters are evenly divided between Mr Obama and Mr McCain, at 47% each.

Mr McCain is due to be nominated next week at the Republican Party's convention in Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota.

He campaigned in Arizona on Tuesday, telling veterans that Mr Obama's opposition to the Iraq war and preference for multilateral diplomacy could undermine US leadership in the world.

On the attack

While the first night of the convention was devoted to fleshing out the life story of Barack Obama, Tuesday was billed as "Renewing America's Promise" and featured political heavyweights, including state governors and prominent House and Senate leaders.

Iowa Governor Chet Culver used his time on the convention floor to suggest big oil firms were backing Mr McCain, "bankrolling his campaign and gambling with our future".

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Clinton supporter, also attacked Mr McCain's energy policy, suggesting he was more interested in giving tax cuts to oil firms than in safeguarding the environment.

CONVENTION AGENDA
Wednesday: Speeches by Bill Clinton and Joe Biden; vote to confirm Barack Obama as party's candidate
Thursday: Barack Obama to accept nomination with speech in stadium

Mrs Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, takes the stage on Wednesday night, when Mr Obama is to be formally nominated.

Democratic officials are said to have brokered a deal between the Obama and Clinton camps for the nomination that is meant to appease die-hard Clinton supporters.

Some states would be allowed to cast votes for both Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton on Wednesday before the roll call is ended with the unanimous nomination of Barack Obama.

The first African-American to be nominated as a mainstream US presidential candidate, he makes his appearance on the closing night of the conference, when he is to address a crowd of an expected 80,000 people at a sports stadium.




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