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Europe Offers Help Privately, Kerry Says

Times Staff Writer

Sen. John F. Kerry said Friday that despite public declarations from France and other European countries that they would not send troops to Iraq, there were indications some of the nations would be willing to change course with the right diplomatic effort.

“There are senators and ... diplomats who have had conversations with other folks that I think indicate that -- given the right equation, given the right statesmanship and leadership -- it is possible to have a very different level of participation,” Kerry said Friday at his Washington campaign headquarters.

“I know what the public statements are today,” the presumed Democratic presidential nominee added. “It doesn’t deter me one iota from saying what I say, based on what my private conversations have been.”

Earlier this week, France’s new foreign minister said his country would never send French troops to Iraq, even as part of a peacekeeping mission.

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But Kerry expressed optimism about altering European opinion, although he added that he did not know if France would change its position.

“I am convinced, talking to a lot of people, that there are countries that can be brought to a place of understanding their interests” in helping rebuild Iraq, he said.

Kerry said members of Congress who had traveled abroad recently could vouch for that possibility, citing Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) as one of them.

Norm Kurz, a spokesman for Biden, said Friday that French President Jacques Chirac told the senator this year that he would be prepared to send French troops to Iraq under the right conditions. “What Chirac indicated was that he was waiting for [President Bush] and the present administration to reach out and lay out a plan that was sensible,” Kurz said.

Kerry has repeatedly called for President Bush to make a more personal diplomatic effort to internationalize the effort in Iraq. He has pledged to reach out to other nations if elected president, and asserted he would be more successful at gaining their help than Bush.

In March, Kerry caused a stir when he said that in private conversations, officials from other countries had told him they hoped he would defeat Bush in the fall. When pressed about whom he was referring to, Kerry refused to name them, saying he did not want to betray their confidence.

On Friday, Bush’s reelection campaign questioned Kerry’s assertion that he would be a stronger leader in the world arena.

“He offers no concrete proposals and instead continues to allude to conversations with unnamed leaders, diplomats and senators that seem to lack a basis in reality,” said spokesman Steve Schmidt.

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Kerry on Friday gained the endorsement of the 12,000-member International Brotherhood of Police Officers, which backed Bush in 2000.

David Holway, the organization’s president, said the group decided to support Kerry because of frustration with the president over a lack of federal assistance for local law enforcement agencies.

“We have rhetoric that says we’re going to put police officers on the street and that homeland security is important,” Holway told Kerry during a round-table discussion at the Massachusetts senator’s headquarters. “But [Bush] is not giving the cities and towns across this country the tools needed to fulfill that commitment.”

In response, the Bush campaign issued a statement from former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik saying that the administration had provided more than $13 billion to state and local governments for homeland security.

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Also Friday, Kerry called a collection of unpublished photos of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees “appalling, depraved and sad.” He saw the photos in a private screening on Capitol Hill late Thursday night, a day after they were viewed by other members of Congress.

“I don’t believe they represent our country; they don’t represent our values, and I know they don’t represent the vast majority, the 99.9% of our courageous soldiers who are serving their nation with distinction,” he said. “What those pictures told me was that these were a group of people run amok.”

Kerry said he thought the photos, which the Pentagon had so far declined to make public, should be released to prevent them from coming out slowly, causing further damage.

“There are obvious considerations in that process that need to be thought through, and I’m not privy to all of the legalities of it, but I think [Sen.] John McCain (R-Ariz.) was correct that they’re probably going to come out,” he said. “You’re probably better off releasing them in one swoop and taking responsibility for them.”

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