US Vice President Al Gore vowed Tuesday to throw his "granite" support behind Israel if elected, push for the downfall of the Iraqi regime and battle extremism in Iran.
"One of the great tests of forward engagement is in the Middle East, where we still wrestle with the classic questions of war and peace," Gore told the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington.
Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush addressed the powerful lobby Monday as the two compete for the Jewish vote ahead of the November election to replace President Bill Clinton.
The Texas governor assailed Clinton for meddling in Israel's elections and for trying to "make Israel conform to his own plans and timetables."
Gore countered the attack by pointing to his own Middle East record while in Congress, when he charged Bush's father, the former president, with promoting "the policy of 'linkage,' which tried to use loan guarantees as a stick to bully Israel."
The vice president also defended his record, insisting that: "Facilitating peace, not forcing it; standing by our friends, not against them -- these have been the hallmarks of my approach."
"I will never, ever let people forget that the relationship between the United States and Israel rests on granite, on the rock of our common values, our common heritage, and our common dedication to freedom," Gore added.
Gore laid out a policy plan to pursue the stymied peace negotiations aggressively, support the Iraqi opposition's efforts to remove President Saddam Hussein from power and oppose extremist government policies in Iran.
Israel's full integration into the United Nations and continued sanctions against Iraq will also be central to Gore's Middle East policy.
Gore wound up his address on an optimistic note.
"Despite all the grave problems of the moment, all the real challenges to the prospect for peace, let us envision the Middle East as it can be ten or twenty years from now -- a Middle East at peace with itself, taking full advantage of all its potential and the talents of all its people," he said -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
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