Giuliani: Iraq pullout would be ‘terrible mistake’

Giuliani: Iraq pullout would be ‘terrible mistake’

TEANECK – Setting a timetable for leaving Iraq makes no sense, said presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani during dinner at Noah’s Ark restaurant Tuesday.

The former New York mayor walked through the kosher deli’s dining room, shaking hands and signing autographs with diners who had made reservations for the time of his visit. Sitting down to a hot dog and a corned beef sandwich, he turned his attention to the Yankees between bites and posing for pictures. His conversation with other diners quickly turned to Israel, which he called "one of our most reliable friends in the world."

Regarding the Palestinians, he said the objective must be to get them to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and to abandon terrorism.

"Israel’s been ready for peace for a long time," he said, but forcing a peace before the Palestinians meet the above objectives would not work.

The presidential hopeful focused his attention on a forceful policy in Iraq, which, he said, does not exist in a vacuum. "[You have to] look at Iraq as how it is going to affect Iran," he said. "What would it do to Iran if we show great weakness in Iraq?"

Iran would only be emboldened by a timetable for an Iraqi pullout, which it would see as weakness in the U.S. position. "The idea of giving an enemy a timetable for retreat makes no sense to me" and would be "a terrible mistake," he said.

Giuliani supported the president in going to war in Iraq but has been critical of the administration’s strategies. The United States should focus its energies on supporting its troops in Iraq, Giuliani said.

The House of Representatives last week approved a bill that set a pullout date of Sept. 1, ‘008. On Tuesday, the Senate upheld language in a $1” billion war-spending bill that specified a pullout by March 31, ‘008. President Bush on Wednesday said that he was likely to veto the entire bill if it stands rather than negotiate.

How the United States performs in Iraq plays a role in the effectiveness of sanctions against Iran, Giuliani said. The sanctions have a better chance of working against Iran if that country’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thinks the United States is strong.

The United States must make it clear to Ahmadinejad that he will not have nuclear weapons, Giuliani continued. "That is not an option."

Giuliani was in the area for a fund-raiser Tuesday night with the Bergen County Republican Organization at the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe and a private Norpac fund-raiser. His appearance in Teaneck, which was finalized only Monday night and announced Tuesday morning, drew about ‘5 people to the deli’s dining room.

Ted Jacobs of Fair Lawn, who did not know about Giuliani’s visit and did not expect to see crowds when he showed up for dinner, said that because he works in New York, he knows what Giuliani has done, and he respects the former mayor for snubbing former PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat at the United Nations.

Bernie Levi of Teaneck came to the meet-and-greet at the deli with his wife Sallie and daughters Molly and Meira.

Said Levi, "He could be the next president of the United States, and that was exciting."

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