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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson backtracked on his earlier suggestion that former secretary of state James Baker be his Middle East envoy and instead named former president Bill Clinton in a debate Sunday night.
His remark in April that he would place Baker, who served under president George H.W. Bush, in a revived envoy position troubled some in the Jewish community, which has been highly critical of Baker's attitude toward Israel.
At the second Democratic debate, Richardson answered a question about how Clinton would be used in his administration to tout the former president as his choice. He said Clinton could help Israel, which "needs buttressing."
Richardson is the governor of New Mexico and a former US ambassador to the United Nations.
He also suggested that the US contemplate boycotting the 2008 Olympics in Beijing if China doesn't become more helpful on the issue of Sudan, a major oil trading partner for the Asian giant.
The bulk of foreign policy questions in the CNN debate focused on Iraq.
But New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden and former North Carolina senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards did address Iran.
Edwards stressed the need for "serious" economic sanctions to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. "This is the clear path," he said, but added it would be irresponsible to take options "off the table."
Biden suggested that the US has more time to deal with Iran than is generally portrayed, saying the Islamic Republic was a decade away from being able to "weaponize." He also said the threat of regime change should be dropped, since that prospect only strengthened Iran's desire for nuclear capabilities.
Clinton focused on the need for engagement with Iran. At the same time, she said, "We still have to make it clear that Iran having a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. We have to try to prevent that at all costs."
Clinton distinguished herself early in the debate by differing from the assessment offered by Illinois Sen. Barak Obama and others that the Bush administration has made the US more susceptible to terrorist attack than before it started its War on Terror.
"We're safer than we were," Clinton countered. "[But] we're not safe enough."