Associated Press Writer

The head of the Democratic Party said Wednesday that unchecked U.S. reliance on foreign oil helps fund terrorists and the nation must address its energy needs in a way that creates jobs.

Howard Dean, in a speech to the American Jewish Committee, said new industries should emerge to develop alternative fuel sources. The other option, he said, is continued support of Islamic schools that teach hatred of the United States and Israel.

"We are committed to ending our standing by, while our oil money (provides) indirect funding of fundamentalist Islamic schools all over the world," he said.

Dean took a swipe at the Republican Party, saying the Democratic Party is one of inclusion and religious freedom.

"I was recently asked about the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties," Dean said. "When it comes right down to it, the essential difference is that the Democrats fundamentally believe it is important to make sure that American Jews feel comfortable being American Jews."

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who is Jewish, addressed the group on Tuesday.

Dean decried energy industry subsidies, suspected price gouging and what he called a lack of leadership in Iraq. He also said any confrontation with Iran should be handled in a better way than the one with Iraq.

"Iran will not be permitted to develop nuclear weapons -- period. They threaten the world. They threaten the United States of America," he said.

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Democrats responded to a Republican parody Web site of Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey with one of their own, lampooning Republican Tom Kean Jr., in a rift on youth and membership in the GOP fraternity.

The Web site http://www.toojuniorforjersey.com, pokes fun at Kean, highlights his past work for British Petroleum and cites the campaign money he's received from oil and gas political action committees as rising gas prices unnerve consumers.

National Democrats launched the site on Wednesday. Kean, 37, is the son of the popular former governor.

According to Kean's latest campaign finance filings, he received $13,000 from oil and gas PACs. The Web site does not mention that Menendez received contributions from energy and natural resources PACS, including $5,000 from the Exelon PAC and $10,000 from FirstEnergy PAC.

The Web site has the GOP written in Greek-style letters and the words, "Fraternity, unpopularity, failure." The Web site mocks the slogan "New Jersey and You, Perfect Together," that has come to symbolize Gov. Kean's time in office. The Web site slogan is "Bush, Kean Jr. and Big Oil, Perfect Together."

Republicans targeted Menendez with http://www.bobsbaggage.com, which focuses on ethical allegations that have swirled around Menendez -- appointed to the Senate in January by Gov. Jon Corzine to serve out the remaining year of his term.

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State and local labor leaders urged several breakaway unions to allow workers to remain affiliated with AFL-CIO locals, warning that labor's political clout was at risk.

"At stake are elections, from defeating Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania and Mike DeWine in Ohio -- to winning a pro-working family majority in the Congress and turning back the Bush agenda," the labor leaders said in a letter to unions in the Change to Win coalition.

Change to Win was formed after five unions defected from the AFL-CIO to start a rival group pledged to spend more time and money on an aggressive organizing campaign.

The AFL-CIO has committed $40 million to its political campaign for 2006, $5 million more than it spent on the last midterm elections. Officials have said they could run an extensive political program, in part because of a "solidarity charter" program that allowed members of the breakaway unions to affiliate with AFL-CIO unions at the local level.

More than half of the breakaway unions' members had affiliated with the AFL-CIO at the local level through the "solidarity charter" and the AFL-CIO was expected to push that number higher throughout the year. That would allow the AFL-CIO to make direct contact with those union members during political campaigning.

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Associated Press Writers Donna De La Cruz and Will Lester contributed to this report.

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