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Kerry to travel to Iraq, meet with troops

Plans discussions on war on terror

Senator John F. Kerry, who rooted his unsuccessful presidential campaign in an alternate vision of the Iraqi occupation, will visit that nation next month during a swing through the Middle East.

The Massachusetts Democrat is to meet with National Guard troops from Massachusetts, other active-duty armed forces personnel, and others during the tour. The dates of his travel, the length of his stay, and his exact itinerary were being withheld for security purposes.

''He's going because he wants to thank the troops from Massachusetts," said Kerry spokeswoman April Boyd. ''While he's there, he'll also be meeting with military commanders, embassy officials, and Iraqi government leaders. The purpose will be to discuss the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism."

Elections in Iraq are scheduled for Jan. 30. During the US presidential campaign, Kerry warned that the Iraqi elections would be hampered if the security situation in the country did not improve.

Prior to his campaign, Kerry made a similiar trip, traveling solo to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and meeting with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Following that trip, he condemned President Bush and his administration for backing out of the Middle East peace process. He also argued that his personal relationships with the leaders, built over a 20-year career on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, left him in better standing than Bush to win the leaders' support as the United States sought multinational support for the occupation and postwar reconstruction.

During his presidential campaign, Kerry pledged that, as president, he would travel to the United Nations as well as the Middle East to open a new chapter in US foreign relations. Since losing the race in early November, he has largely stayed out of public view, vacationing, attending to Senate business, and, last weekend, traveling to New Hampshire to thank campaign supporters. He has also established a reelection committee and a political action committee to support Democratic candidates across the country.

In addition, he has $15 million remaining in his presidential campaign account, leaving him currently the best-funded candidate should he decide to make another run for the White House.

Kerry also visited London last month, where he spoke to business leaders.

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com.

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