updated 3/16/2007 2:45:41 PM ET 2007-03-16T18:45:41

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said Thursday that if elected, he would appoint a Cabinet-level officer to oversee efforts to fight global poverty and promote democracy abroad.

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Edwards said the anti-poverty official would report directly to the president and would coordinate efforts to extend primary education to more than 100 million children in the developing world, improve the United States’ image abroad and coordinate micro-finance loans to small entrepreneurs.

Edwards said combatting terrorism should begin in classrooms, not battlefields.

“I believe by making education available to 100 million children growing up in parts of the world that are highly susceptible to extreme ideology, and in some cases extremely violent ideology, we can shift that,” the former North Carolina senator said in a conference call.

Cabinet rank has been given to the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Management and Budget, the national drug czar and the U.S. trade representative.

Edwards has made fighting poverty his signature issue since leaving the Senate after one term.

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