The Republican John McCain and the Democrat Barack Obama took part in the first of three debates yesterday, that could help determine the winner of the US presidential election on Nov 4. Here are some quotes from the foreign policy portion of the debate, which was held in Oxford, Mississippi: On Iraq Mr Obama: "I stood up and opposed this war, at a time when it was politically risky to do so, because I said that not only did we not know how much it was going to cost, what our exit strategy might be, how it would affect our relationships around the world and whether our intelligence was sound but also because we hadn't finished the job in Afghanistan. "The first question is whether we should have gone into this war in the first place."
Mr McCain: "I think the lessons of Iraq are very clear, that you cannot have a failed strategy that will then cause you to nearly lose a conflict. Our initial military success, we went into Baghdad and everybody celebrating, and then the war was very badly mishandled." On Afghanistan Mr Obama: "We have seen Afghanistan worsen, deteriorate. We need more troops there. We need more resources there." Mr McCain: "I won't repeat the mistake that I regret enormously, and that is after we were able to help the Afghan freedom fighters and drive the Russians out of Afghanistan, we basically washed our hands of the region. We can't ignore those lessons of history." On Pakistan Mr Obama: "With the strategy that's been pursued ... for 10 years we coddled Musharraf; we alienated the Pakistani population because we were anti-democratic; we had a 20th century mindset that basically said, well, you know, he may be a dictator, but he's our dictator; and as a consequence, we lost legitimacy in Pakistan." "If the United States has al Qa'eda, (Osama) bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out." Mr McCain: "You don't say that out loud. If you have to do things, you have to do things, and you work with the Pakistani government." On Iran Mr Obama: "We do need tougher sanctions. I do not agree with Senator McCain that we're going to be able to execute the kind of sanctions we need without some co-operation from countries, like Russia and China." "We're also going to have to, I believe, engage in tough, direct diplomacy with Iran, and this is a major difference that I have with Senator McCain. Mr McCain: "This is a serious threat. This is a serious threat to the security in the world, and I believe we can act, and we can act with our friends and allies and ? and reduce that threat as quickly as possible. But have no doubt about the ultimate result of them acquiring nuclear weapons." "If without precondition you sit down across the table from someone who has called Israel a 'stinking corpse,' and wants to destroy that country and wipe it off the map, you legitimise those comments. This is dangerous. It isn't just naive, it's dangerous." On Russia Mr Obama: "I think that given what's happened over the last several weeks and months, our entire Russian approach has to be evaluated, because a resurgent and very aggressive Russia is a threat to the peace and stability of the region." Mr McCain: "He doesn't understand that Russia committed serious aggression against Georgia. And Russia has now become a nation fuelled by petrol dollars that is basically a KGB-apparatchik-run government." "I looked into Mr. Putin's eyes and I saw three letters: a K, a G and a B. And their aggression in Georgia is not acceptable behaviour. I don't believe we're going to go back to the Cold War. I am sure that that will not happen. But I do believe that we need to bolster our friends and allies." On the US$700bn Financial Rescue Plan Mr Obama: "I am optimistic about the capacity of us to come together with a plan." "I think Senator McCain's absolutely right that we need more responsibility, but we need it not just when there is a crisis." "It's hard to anticipate right now what the budget's going to look like next year. But there's no doubt that we're not going to be able to do everything that, I think, needs to be done. There are some things that, I think, have to be done. There is no doubt that it's going to affect our budgets. There is no doubt about it." "This is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policy promoted by (President) George (W.) Bush and supported by Senator McCain." Mr McCain: "We've got to fix the system. We've got fundamental problems in the system. Main Street is paying a penalty for the excesses and greed in Washington, DC, and in Wall Street there is no doubt that we have a long way to go." "Somehow in Washington today ? and I'm afraid on Wall Street ? greed is rewarded, excess is rewarded and corruption ? or certainly failure to carry out our responsibility ? is rewarded. As president of the United States, people are going to be held accountable in my administration." "The point is ? the point is, we are finally seeing Republicans and Democrats sitting down and negotiating together and coming up with a package." On taxes and spending Mr Obama: "My attitude is we've got to grow the economy from the bottom up. What I've called for is a tax cut for 95 per cent of working families." "Here's what I can tell the American people: 95 per cent of you will get a tax cut. And if you make less than $250,000 ? less than a quarter-million dollars a year ? then you will not see one dime's worth of tax increase. Mr McCain: "I also want to say again, a healthy economy with low taxes, with not raising anyone's taxes is probably the best recipe for eventually having our economy recover. And spending restraint has got to be a vital part of that." "I've fought to simplify it (the tax code), and I have proposals to simplify it. Let's give every American a choice: two tax brackets, generous dividends, and ? and two ? and let Americans choose whether they want the ? the existing tax code or they want a new tax code." * Reuters