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Anti- and pro-war Democrats praise capture

John Kerry says the capture of Saddam should draw international support to win the peace.
John Kerry says the capture of Saddam should draw international support to win the peace.

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Watch CNN's ongoing live coverage of news of the capture of Saddam Hussein, now on-air.
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Saddam Hussein

(CNN) -- Democratic presidential candidates Joe Lieberman and John Kerry used the dramatic capture of Saddam Hussein to take aim at their anti-war rival, front-runner Howard Dean.

The hawkish Lieberman, a senator from Connecticut, lambasted Dean and his consistent anti-war message, saying that if Dean "had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today, not in prison."

Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, told "Fox News Sunday" that "I personally have said all along that saying 'no' is not a policy. And Howard Dean has only basically been saying 'no' and been angry about the war."

Earlier, he released a statement saying the event was "a great day" for U.S. forces, the Iraqis and the world, and he used the opportunity to push for other countries to participate in the U.S.-led coalition.

"Our problems in Iraq have not been caused by one man, and this is a moment when the administration can and must launch a major effort to gain international support and win the peace," Kerry said.

Another frontline candidate, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, cheered the news of Saddam's capture, but said he stood by recent harsh criticism of President Bush for leading the nation into a war that "wasn't necessary" because the Iraqi dictator posed "no imminent threat."

Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, Dean's toughest competitor in next month's Iowa caucuses, also stuck by his criticism of Bush's international leadership.

"We have a big job of reconciling the people in Iraq. We need to pull together that international coalition that we should have gotten together a long time ago," Gephardt said.

The former House Democratic leader said Bush "has isolated us in the world at the very time we should be leading a world alliance against this very dangerous foe we face, which is terrorism."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who also has been staunchly anti-war, said "the United States must seize this moment and end the occupation of Iraq."

Speaking in West Palm Beach, Florida, Dean praised the Bush administration and the U.S. military for Saddam's arrest, saying today is for celebration, not campaigning.

"This is a great day of pride in the American military and a great day for the Iraqis and a great day for the American people," he said. In addition, he said, "President Bush deserves a day of celebration."

But Dean also said the capture gives Bush an opportunity to "internationalize" the reconstruction effort, bringing in the United Nations, NATO and other nations to the coalition fold.

He said patience and time are required to decide how to deal with the former dictator, noting proposals to try him before war crimes tribunals in Iraq or the United States.

Both Kerry and Lieberman trail their rival in polls, and Lieberman lost the support of his former presidential ticket mate Al Gore, who endorsed Dean last week.

Lieberman said that the capture does not give Bush a political boost because Americans "feel less secure" now than they did three years ago, but said it provides an opportunity for the administration to stabilize Iraq.

Lieberman said the capture is "something that I have been advocating and praying for for more than 12 years, since the Gulf War of 1991. Saddam Hussein was a homicidal maniac, a brutal dictator, who wanted to dominate the Arab world and was supporting terrorists."

Lieberman said he would like Saddam to appear before an Iraqi war crimes tribunal that would impose the death penalty or a U.S. war crimes tribunal to receive "the punishment he deserves."

Clark, who was NATO supreme commander during the air war in Kosovo, said he was proud of the soldiers who captured Saddam and praised the intelligence work that led to his arrest.

Clark said the capture of Saddam was a necessary step to bring about a successful conclusion to the Iraqi conflict.

"I want our country to succeed, but that doesn't change the fact that we began a war that, in my view, wasn't necessary," said Clark, who was in the Hague in the Netherlands to testify at the war crimes trial of deposed Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Clark said he stood by comments he made last week to business executives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, calling Bush a "reckless, radical and heartless leader" and saying that the war in Iraq "casts doubts on his competence as a commander in chief."

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