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Democrats accuse McCain of hypocrisy on Hamas

Eds: ADDS McCain response to Democratic criticism.

AP Photo VAJC102

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats accused Sen. John McCain Friday of hypocrisy on the question of whether the United States should negotiate with terrorists and dictators, saying the certain Republican nominee had previously been willing to negotiate with the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

In an op-ed published Friday in The Washington Post, former Clinton State Department official James Rubin said that McCain, responding to a question in a television interview two years ago about whether U.S. diplomats should be working with the Hamas government in Gaza, said:

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"They’re the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy toward Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so ... But it’s a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

Rubin, who interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News, said McCain is "guilty of hypocrisy" and accused him of "smearing" Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama. On Thursday, McCain suggested that Obama was naive and inexperienced for expressing a willingness to meet with rogue leaders like Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said Friday that McCain has long said he would impose pre-conditions before meeting with Hamas or other radical groups and leaders.

"There should be no confusion, John McCain has always believed that serious engagement would require mandatory conditions and Hamas must change itself fundamentally renounce violence, abandon its goal of eradicating Israel and accept a two state solution," Bounds said in a statement.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del., also accused McCain and President Bush of hypocrisy, saying Bush was talking about Obama when he slammed those who would negotiate with rogue leaders and terrorists as appeasers in a speech to the Israeli Knesset on Thursday.

The Bush administration has negotiated with rogue leaders in North Korea and Libya, Biden said in an interview with CNN Friday.

"This is pure hypocrisy, but the worst part about it is, think how it falls on the ears in capitals of Europe and the rest of the world and Toyko when the president of the United States says under no condition will we talk to anybody like that, and John McCain, the nominee for the Republican Party, who may very well be president of the United States, is saying the same thing," Biden said.

On Thursday, McCain told reporters he took the White House at its word when it said that Bush hadn’t been referring to Obama in his speech. But he said Obama must explain why he wants to talk with leaders like Ahmadinejad and added that Obama’s position was a serious error.

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