Sunday, July 8, 2007

Romney Speaking on the Mideast

Romney says working with moderate Muslim states will help in Mideast

By Susan Spencer-Wendel
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

About 100 people turned out this afternoon for an "Ask Mitt Anything" session with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.

Men and women — some from as far away as Indian River and Dade counties — filled more than two-thirds of available seats in rooms at Palm Beach County Convention Center.

Romney, 60, deftly fielded questions on topics ranging from embryonic stem cell research, health care for soldiers returning from war and what to do in Pakistan.

Romney said he thought in combatting radical jihadists, America should work more with moderate Muslim states, strengthening things like schools and economic policies there.

"We have to strengthen those lands so those people will choose us," he said.

In places like Pakistan, America needs to work not just on a military front, he said.

Romney proposed putting together a "Special Partnership Force", a team of CIA agents and Army special forces to work with the local populations.

"Not just to provide guns but to help make sure that they have the rule of law, water projects, bridges built."

Romney said such effort was successful in sapping jihadist efforts in the Phillipines.

When asked if he would consider breaking with Bush administration policy on Iraq as other Republicans have now done, Romney said he was willing. He said he would keep his eyes open on what course to take and said it is too early to gauge the success or failure of the recent troop surge there.

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