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Pelosi: Democrats missed chance to turn Bush away from war

Urges more diplomacy with Iraq

Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Asserting the Bush administration appears certain to go to war with Iraq, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday things might have turned out differently if Democrats late last year had opposed the push to use force.

"If the Democrats had spoken out more clearly in a unified vote five months ago in opposition to the resolution, if the people had gone on to the streets five months ago in these numbers in our country and throughout the world, I think we might have been in a different place today," Pelosi said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations.

"But the fact that we didn't and because we were very split at that time on it, I think the president is too far down the road and I don't think he's turning back," the California Democrat said.

Pelosi voted against a resolution put forth in Congress in October that authorized President Bush to use force against Iraq if necessary. Sixty percent of House Democrats voted against the resolution, but it ultimately passed through both houses of Congress.

Delivering her first speech on foreign policy since becoming the Democrats' leader in the House, Pelosi said she believes Bush outlined a new objective, beyond disarming Iraq, in his comments Thursday night, when he held a news conference.

"The president made it clear last night that that was not enough, that regime change was what he was requiring in order not to go to war," she said.

Pelosi said she remained opposed to using military force against Iraq at this juncture, despite Bush's latest comments.

"My position has not changed," she said to applause. "I do not believe that going to war now is the best way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

"Before going to war we must exhaust all alternatives, such as the continuation of inspections, diplomacy and the leverage provided by the threat of military action."

Pelosi voiced concerns about the United States' relationship with its European allies.

"Over the past two years, we have too often tested the reservoir of good will toward us by saying and doing things that show disregard for our friends," she said, adding that she believes the administration has taken its allies for granted since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

During a question-and-answer session, Ted Sorenson, a former policy adviser and speech writer for President Kennedy, asked what's become of the Democratic Party.

"Never again will the Democrats go into a race without defining who we are," Pelosi responded. "Never again will the Democrats have to answer to the charge, 'We didn't know what you stood for or what you were willing to fight for.' "

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