Richardson urges dialogue with Iran and Iraq

CONCORD -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Friday said President Bush should learn from recent successes with North Korea and engage in intense diplomatic negotiations in the Middle East to end the Iraq war.

"He finally used diplomacy and it works," Richardson said on the first day of a two-day visit to the early voting state of New Hampshire. "My hope is that he uses that lesson ... to talk to Syria about Hezbollah and Iraq, and that he talks to Iran about getting out of Iraq and stop their meddling there.

"I believe that a good concrete dialogue with those two countries, with the U.S. having tough smart positions -- that could achieve something," he said during a telephone interview.

Richardson, a former United Nations ambassador who has negotiated with North Korea and Saddam Hussein, said his own Iraq plan combines diplomacy with a troop withdrawal by the end of 2007.

Diplomacy would take two paths, he said. The United States should negotiate with Iraq's three main ethnic groups to set territorial boundaries and divide the government and control over oil.

"Not necessarily break up the country, but I think possibly (create) three separate government entities," he said.

The United States also should lead talks with Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to get their cooperation in securing and rebuilding Iraq.

"I believe that would at least give Iraq a chance to keep itself together and not be overrun by a sectarian conflict," he said.

On the same day the U.S. House passed a nonbinding resolution rebuking the president's decision to send more troops to Iraq, the former congressman said he would rather have seen Congress spend time working on a resolution to bring a real end to the war, instead of debating a symbolic measure.

"A nonbinding resolution I believe is just being done for cover for members that want to vote a certain way," he said. "They're worried about their re-election prospects."

Richardson filed papers last month to form a presidential exploratory committee and was scheduled to attend house parties with voters in Tilton and Holderness on Friday and Hampton on Saturday.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton also was to visit New Hampshire on Saturday, a week after a splashy kickoff tour the previous weekend.

"I'm not here to stage big media events," he said, without naming names. "That's not my style of campaigning."