WASHINGTON - Ralph Nader, the independent presidential hopeful, called Monday for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq in six months.
Nader, who has sounded an anti-war theme since announcing his candidacy in February, laid out a three-point plan for withdrawal. He said he would create an international peacekeeping force under United Nations auspices, promote Iraqi self-rule through independent elections and provide humanitarian aid to stabilize the country.
"The key is this," Nader told reporters: "How do you separate the mainstream Iraqis from the insurgents when the mainstream Iraqis now are increasingly opposed to our presence there and increasingly, quietly or otherwise, supporting the insurgents?
"The way you do it is you declare you are getting out."
Nader sought to distance himself from both President Bush and presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, whom he described as "pro-war candidates." Nader called himself the "muscular peace candidate."
By withdrawing from Iraq, Nader continued, "You're getting the oil companies out. You're getting all the foreign businesses that are replacing the Iraqi businesses, the truck drivers in Iraq who are angry because they see foreigners driving trucks."
Bush and Kerry support maintaining U.S. troops in Iraq to provide stability after the transfer of authority to an interim government June 30.
Nader's comments came as White House spokesman Scott McClellan reported that Bush had spoken sharply with newly installed Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who ordered the withdrawal of the nation's 1,300 troops from Iraq as soon as possible.
"The president urged that the Spanish withdrawal take place in a coordinated manner that does not put at risk other coalition forces in Iraq," said McClellan.
"The president stressed the importance of carefully considering future actions to avoid giving false comfort to terrorists or enemies of freedom in Iraq," McClellan said Bush told Zapatero in a five-minute phone conversation.
Kerry favors an internationalized effort in Iraq, but said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he supported sending in more U.S. troops, if necessary.
"Now, he's got to out-Bush Bush," said Nader.
The longtime consumer advocate said that the international peacekeeping force he advocated would be drawn from neutral nations and from Islamic countries. Nader said the election process should be carried out at the same time as the six-month withdrawal and done under international supervision.
"The complicated culture of Iraq, the split between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds makes consensus on a new government a challenge," conceded Nader. "But Iraq should be able to sort out these issues more easily without the military presence of a U.S. occupying force."
Nader, who ran for president as the Green Party nominee in 2000 and 1996, is trying to get on the ballot in 50 states as an independent in 2004.
To read Nader's proposal go to
© Copyright 2004 Knight-Ridder