From: Reuters
Published March 20, 2008 08:56 AM

McCain shrugs off Obama attack over Iraq gaffe

By Adrian Croft

LONDON (Reuters) - Presidential candidate John McCain shrugged off criticism from rival Barack Obama over a gaffe about Iraq, saying on Thursday that all politicians slip up and it was time to "move on."

McCain, on a tour of Europe and the Middle East, mistakenly told reporters in Jordan on Tuesday that Iran had backed Sunni militant group al Qaeda in Iraq. The United States accuses Iran of backing Shi'ite militias there, not Sunnis.

Obama, locked in a battle with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, pounced on the mistake the following day, suggesting McCain's support for the Iraq war stemmed from misreading the situation.

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"We all misspeak from time to time and I immediately corrected it. Just as Sen. Obama said he was looking forward to meeting the president of Canada, we all misspeak from time to time," McCain told reporters in London.

"So we'll just move on," the presumptive Republican nominee said after talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at his Downing St. residence.

Obama said last August he would call "the president of Canada" about a trade deal. Canada has a prime minister but no president.

McCain, a 71-year-old Arizona senator, touts his national security experience as a main reason why he should be elected. He defended his support both for the 2003 invasion and the buildup, or "surge," of American troops there to curb violence.

"It's very clear that I have a lot of experience in Iraq," said McCain, who has also visited Iraq and Israel this week. "It is very clear to most objective observers that the surge has succeeded where others predicted it would fail."

"The situation has improved dramatically over the last year. The Iraqi people are going about their normal lives. The fact is al Qaeda is on the run. We are not defeated," he said.

Obama and Clinton both say that if elected they would quickly begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

McCain said he was "disturbed" by the violence in Tibet and urged China to respect the rights of demonstrators there. He backed Brown's decision to meet Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, when he visits London in May.

(Editing by David Clarke and Giles Elgood)

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