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Clark rules out vice presidential bid for now

'There's only one decision to make'

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark
Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former NATO commander Wesley Clark said Friday he will make a decision "sometime pretty soon" about whether he'll seek the Democratic nomination for president.

He also ruled out -- for now -- any possible run as a vice presidential candidate.

"There's only one decision to make: Run for president or stay in private business," Clark said during an interview on CNN's American Morning.

"You have to really understand what the process is and what the variables are in the process that will make for an effective candidacy."

Clark was responding to reports that he and Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean, the liberal anti-war former Vermont governor, met in recent days to discuss the possibility of Clark as a running mate.

Asked what he thinks of Dean, Clark said he likes "all of the people who are running," admiring them for their stamina, organizational skills and courage. "I think the American people should be really proud of the political process we have," he said.

Several Democratic sources have said Clark -- the leader of NATO forces during the 1999 war in Kosovo and a former CNN military analyst -- has begun the process of putting together a campaign team, including talking to potential campaign managers, and could announce his candidacy next week during a trip to Iowa.

If Clark throws his hat in the ring, political analysts have said he could pose a formidable challenge to President Bush, who is seen as a president strong on national security issues.

"I've got ideas on national security and strategy," said Clark, pointing out that he's a "military person."

"I think it's pretty clear that they're very concerned.

Asked about how he would deal with Iraq and Osama bin Laden, Clark said he would focus his resources on going after terror networks and terrorists, not states.

"Because the nature of terrorism shifted in the late 1990s. So these international networks like Osama bin Laden's, they use states to some extent, but they're not a function of states.

"Sometimes they're using states without even getting any active support from the leadership itself, and if you go after the states, you end up with a problem then of taking care of the state that you've knocked off and it's an expensive and difficult proposition.

"And in the long run, it may be better for the United States to focus more directly on the terrorists, at least that's my hypothesis."

Clark would become the 10th Democrat in the race. He has said that his wife has reservations about a presidential campaign, but she will support him in whatever decision he makes.


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