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Kerry rips Bush policy

ALTOONA, Iowa -- Presidential candidate John F. Kerry yesterday used Libya's announcement that it would end its nuclear weapons program to slam the Bush administration's foreign policy, saying the agreement with Moammar Khadafy shows what is possible through negotiations instead of force and threats.

While applauding Libya's announcement, the Massachusetts senator said in a statement that it "makes clear the shortcomings of George Bush's go-it-alone unilateralism." Kerry said the United Nations and NATO could be used to help end weapons programs in North Korea and Iran.

"An administration that scorns multilateralism and boasts about a rigid doctrine of military preemption has almost in spite of themselves demonstrated the enormous potential for advances in the war on terror through cooperation," Kerry said.

In a speech to campaign supporters and other Democratic activists at an amusement park in Altoona, outside Des Moines, Kerry offered a veiled jab at rival Howard Dean by saying Democrats must challenge President Bush with a candidate who has foreign-policy experience.

"You wouldn't hire a contractor to build your house who's never built a house, and you shouldn't hire somebody to be commander in chief and head of state who has no experience in foreign policy and national security," Kerry said.

Kerry made the comments as he began a four-day tour of Iowa to highlight his support among working families, a swing that will be capped by a 24-hour bus trip tomorrow. With Kerry far back in polls in New Hampshire, Iowa is quickly emerging as a crucial state for his campaign to make a splash.

Kerry's campaign sought to highlight the growing number of Iowa lawmakers who have endorsed his bid for president. He has the support of 24 state senators and representatives, more than twice the support of any other Democratic contender.

Kerry is aggressively courting veterans in Iowa. Mailings tout his service in Vietnam, and plans are afoot to bus elderly and disabled veterans to caucuses.

Rick Klein can be reached at rklein@globe.com.

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