Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama greets Seacoast residents during a town hall style meeting at the Rye Elementary School, Friday, May 18, 2007 in New Hampshire. (Rich Beauchesne photo / SMG)
RYE — In his fourth visit to venues on the New Hampshire Seacoast since December 2006, Illinois Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama issued a challenge to voters in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
"We are currently 16 votes (in the Senate) short of creating a veto-proof bill to end the war (in Iraq)," Obama told the approximately 300 people who attended a town meeting-style event at Rye Elementary School on Friday. "You have a couple of senators here in New Hampshire, and it's time for them to understand that our troops have performed admirably, but now it's time to bring them home."
The Illinois Democrat urged those present and others around the state to contact Republican Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu, and tell them to vote to override President Bush's veto of a bill that would remove American troops from Iraq by sometime next year. Obama has created a way to petition the two senators on his New Hampshire Web site at nh.barackobama.com/page/content/16votesnh.
Ending the war in Iraq is his No. 1 priority, Obama told the audience, not only to end the drain of American financial resources and the deaths and dismemberment of U.S. soldiers, but also because he believes no progress can be made on other international issues while U.S. involvement in the war continues.
Among those issues, Obama counted global warming, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and nuclear proliferation.
"When George Bush steps down from office, the world will breathe a sigh of relief," he said, "and it will present us with an opportunity to say to the world that we're back."
The senator said for too long the U.S. government has viewed security in terms of military strength. He said while he supports a strong military, people must come to realize that American security is "wrapped up with a sense of security around the world."
The goal, he said, is to decrease the number of places in the world where economic conditions create a breeding ground for terrorists. "There is nothing soft about that," the Illinois senator said.
The visit to Rye was one of four stops Obama will make in New Hampshire this weekend.
On Friday night, he was scheduled to speak to the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association at the Wentworth by the Sea hotel in New Castle, and today he will kick off a statewide canvass in Manchester.
Obama's is also the first presidential hopeful to open an office in Portsmouth. It is located on the corner of Fleet and Congress streets.
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