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The McCain campaign lashed out at press reports Wednesday that al-Qaida would prefer the Republican nominee win the White House, rolling out a number of endorsements for Democratic candidate Barack Obama from terrorist entities in an apparent bid to suggest that the latter was the preferred candidate of terrorists.
The McCain camp held a conference call with reporters featuring former CIA director and campaign adviser Jim Woolsey, after media outlets reported that an extremist on an al-Qaida-affiliated Web site had posted a message that "al-Qaida will have to support McCain in the coming elections so that he continues the failing march of his predecessor, Bush."
Continuing the Afghanistan wars "requires the presence of an impetuous American leader such as McCain, who pledged to continue the war till the last American soldier," wrote Muhammad Haafid on the al Qaida-linked Web site al-Hesbah.
He also argued a terror attack before the elections could help achieve this goal.
"If al-Qaida carries out a big operation against American interests," the message said, "this act will be [in] support of McCain because it will push the Americans deliberately to vote for McCain so that he takes revenge for them against al-Qaida.
Al-Qaida then will succeed in exhausting America till its last year in it."
But the McCain campaign pointed out that the message's author wasn't believed to be directly connected to al-Qaida, and Woolsey argued that the post was an attempt at reverse psychology.
"It is ridiculous to believe that in its heart of hearts al-Qaida wants John McCain to be the president. It's ludicrous," he said, bolstering his argument with the role McCain played in the "surge" of US troops to Iraq which has routed much of the al-Qaida force there.
"This individual knows the endorsement of his is a kiss of death," he continued, calling for an examination of the extremist's motivations. "By making this statement [in support of McCain], he is clearly doing damage to John McCain."
Yet the campaign then recited a number of terrorist leaders' praise of Obama, in a veiled implication that they actually preferred him as president, though Senior Foreign Policy Adviser Randy Scheunemann said he was not characterizing them as endorsements or anything else.
The statements included a recent interview by World Net Daily and conservative talk show host John Batchelor with top Hamas political adviser Ahmad Yousef. In the interview, he indicates that he expects Obama will win, and that "we count on this change in the American foreign policy to be more fair and impartial regarding the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict, the way they look at the conflict and the way a new proposal or initiative may help solving the problem."
He also called Obama running mate Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "a great man" and said that "we do count on him also as a good partner with Mr. Obama to put the right policy regarding how to handle the problems in the region."
In response, Dan Shapiro, Obama campaign senior policy adviser, stated, "Barack Obama has always said that he will not negotiate with Hamas, a terrorist group dedicated to Israel's destruction, unless they renounce terror, recognize Israel and abide by past agreements. If Hamas or anyone else thinks otherwise, they are absolutely wrong."
Earlier Wednesday, Obama delivered an address on national security in Virginia, a key swing state in the November 4 vote, in which he touched on the threat of terrorism and how he would handle it.
"The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large and plotting, and we must be vigilant in preventing future attacks," Obama said, defending his approach to dealing with the threats facing America.
"We're not going to defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries through an occupation of Iraq. We're not going to deny the nuclear ambitions of Iran by refusing to pursue direct diplomacy alongside our allies," he said. "It's time for a fundamental change, and that's why I'm running for president."
AP contributed to this report.