WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday he would not use nuclear weapons "in any circumstance" to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance," Obama said, with a pause, "involving civilians." Then he quickly added, "Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."
Obama was responding to a question by the Associated Press about whether there was any circumstance where he would be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
"There's been no discussion of using nuclear weapons and that's not a hypothetical that I'm going to discuss," Obama said after a Capitol Hill breakfast with constituents.
When asked whether his answer also applied to the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons, he said it did.
The Illinois senator warned Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in a major foreign policy speech that he would use U.S. military force in Pakistan even without Musharraf's permission if necessary to root out terrorists.
Pakistan has nuclear weapons and is politically unstable, raising concerns that the current military leadership could be replaced by religious fanatics who would be less cautious in using the weapons.
Obama warned that terrorists in the mountains of Pakistan are planning another attack on the United States, after already killing 3,000 Americans in their 2001 attacks.
"It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005." he said. "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will."
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