> Undermining McCain Campaign Attack, Republicans Back
> Obama‘s Version of Meeting With Iraqi Leaders
> ABC News
> September 19, 2008
> Earlier this week, the campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,
> seized upon a column in the New York Post that described Sen.
> Barack Obama, D-Ill., as having urged Iraqi leaders in a private
> meeting to delay coming to an agreement with the Bush administration
> on the status of U.S. troops.
> "Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay
> an agreement on a drawdown of the American military presence,"
> Post columnist Amir Taheri wrote, quoting Iraqi Foreign Minister
> Hoshyar Zebari, who told the Post that Obama, during his meeting
> with Iraqi leaders in July, "asked why we were not prepared to
> delay an agreement until after the U.S. elections and the formation
> of a new administration in Washington."
> The charge -- that Obama asked the Iraqis to delay signing off
> on a "Status of Forces Agreement," thus delaying U.S. troop
> withdrawal and interfering in U.S. foreign policy -- has been
> picked up on the Internet, talk radio and by Republicans, including
> the McCain campaign, which seized on the story as possible evidence
> of duplicity.
> The Obama campaign said that the Post report consisted of "outright
> Lending significant credence to Obama's response is the fact that -
> - though it's absent from the Post story and other retellings -- in
> addition to Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, this July
> meeting was also attended by Bush administration officials, such as U.S.
> Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and the Baghdad embassy's legislative
> affairs advisor Rich Haughton, as well as a Republican senator, Chuck
> Hagel of Nebraska.
> Attendees of the meeting back Obama's account, including not just
> Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., but Hagel, and Senate Foreign Relations
> Committee staffers from both parties. Officials of the Bush
> administration who were briefed on the meeting by the U.S. embassy
> in Baghdad also support Obama's account and dispute the Post story
> and McCain attack.
> The Post story is "absolutely not true," Hagel spokesman Mike Buttry
> told ABC News.
> "Barack Obama has never urged a delay in negotiations," said Obama
> campaign national security spokesperson Wendy Morigi, "nor has he
> urged a delay in immediately beginning a responsible drawdown of
> our combat brigades."
> Buttry said that Hagel agrees with Obama's account of the meeting:
> Obama began the meeting with al-Maliki by asserting that the United
> States speaks with one foreign policy voice, and that voice belongs
> to the Bush administration.