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Dean: No conflict in Iraq, Bosnia positions

Said U.S. risked moral credibility if it did not act in Bosnia

Howard Dean gets a word from supporter John Gilpin in Pella, Iowa, before a rally.
Howard Dean gets a word from supporter John Gilpin in Pella, Iowa, before a rally.

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Howard Dean
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Democratic Party

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A spokesman for front-running Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean says there's no contradiction between his opposition to the war in Iraq and his call for unilateral U.S. airstrikes on Serb forces in Bosnia in 1995.

With just five days to go before Monday's Iowa caucuses, the war in Iraq was the focus of several Democrats' campaigns. ('s interactive Election Calendar)

Dean's opposition to the U.S. invasion helped catapult him from a little-known former Vermont governor to his now narrow lead over the Democratic pack in Iowa. (Audio Slide Show: Countdown to Iowa)

But in 1995, Dean urged President Clinton to use American warplanes to support the embattled Bosnian Muslim government during that country's three-year civil war, according to a letter published Wednesday in USA Today.

Campaign spokesman Jay Carson said Wednesday that Dean opposed the Iraq war "because it was the wrong war at the wrong time, not because he believes military force should never be used."

Carson told CNN that Dean believes the United States should "always strive to act multilaterally."

In 1995, he told Clinton that it was "no longer possible" to act in conjunction with the NATO allies or the United Nations, and "I have reluctantly concluded that we must take unilateral action."

The civil war among Bosnia's Muslim, Croat and Serb populations was Europe's bloodiest conflict since the end of World War II, and Dean said the United States risked its moral credibility if it did not take action there.

Eventually, NATO did launch airstrikes against Serb forces besieging the capital, Sarajevo, and a U.S.-brokered peace treaty was signed later that year.

Locked into a statistical dead heat in Iowa with Rep. Richard Gephardt, Dean has accused Gephardt and other Democrats who voted to authorize military action against Iraq, of caving in to President Bush on a crucial issue. (Gephardt: U.S. should focus on terrorism)

"I opposed the war in Iraq, and I'm against spending another $87 billion there," Dean tells Iowa voters in a new television ad.

Gephardt and Democratic Senators Joseph Lieberman, John Kerry and John Edwards voted to support military action.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich opposed the war, as did civil rights activist Al Sharpton, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, although Clark has been accused of holding differing positions on the issue.

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