IMAGE: Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards
Charlie Neibergall  /  AP
Democratic presidential hopeful former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards speaks to local residents during a town hall meeting, Thursday, in Corning, Iowa.
updated 10/26/2007 12:08:34 PM ET 2007-10-26T16:08:34

Presidential contender John Edwards criticized Democratic and Republican rivals alike Thursday for threats and a vote against Iran, accusing Hillary Rodham Clinton of helping a GOP march to war.

Earlier in the day, the Bush administration announced new sanctions against Iran and Republican candidate Mitt Romney said he would consider a military blockade or "bombardment of some kind" to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

"You expect that from Republicans, but the Democrats don't need to be helping," Edwards told a group gathered in an Iowa high school. "We need to stand up to these people. We need to stop them and we need to be strong in our opposition."

Edwards, a Democratic former senator, said Clinton made a mistake when she voted recently to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization because President Bush could use the designation to launch military attacks. Clinton, the only Democrat running for president to support the Senate measure, has vigorously denied that would be the result and says she was voting for stepped-up diplomacy and economic sanctions.

On Thursday, the administration declared the Revolutionary Guard a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and announced the new sanctions meant to isolate Iran. The Iranian government contends its nuclear program is aimed only toward providing nuclear power.

Clinton was supportive of the administration move.

"We must work to check Iran's nuclear ambitions and its support of terrorism, and the sanctions announced today strengthen America's diplomatic hand in that regard," she said. "The Bush administration should use this opportunity to finally engage in robust diplomacy to achieve our objective of ending Iran's nuclear weapons program while also averting military action."

Romney, who has been advocating a hard line against Iran throughout his presidential campaign, also applauded the administrations' move. He said military action would be necessary if severe economic and diplomatic sanctions don't persuade Iranian leaders to abandon pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

"If for some reasons they continue down their course of folly toward nuclear ambition, then I would take military action if that's available to us," Romney said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire.

He added: "That's an option that's on the table. And it is not something which we'll spell out specifically. I really can't lay out exactly how that would be done, but we have a number of options from blockade to bombardment of some kind. And that's something we very much have to keep on the table, and we will ready ourselves to be able to take, because, frankly, I think it's unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons."

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said he supports tough sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard, but he contended the measure Clinton supported "made the case for President Bush that we need to use our military presence in Iraq to counter Iran - a case that has nothing to do with sanctioning the Revolutionary Guard." Obama missed the Senate vote on the Revolutionary Guard, campaigning in New Hampshire.

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Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., criticized the administration's announcement Thursday as well as Clinton's vote.

"The aggressive actions taken today by the administration absent any corresponding diplomatic action is exactly what we all should have known was coming when we considered our vote on the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, and smacks, frankly, of a dangerous step toward armed confrontation with Iran," Dodd said.

Clinton's campaign, apparently worried about how her vote on Iran is being perceived, sent a letter to Iowa voters in recent days to defend it.

Edwards said it's all too similar to the lead-up to the Iraq war.

"I've learned my lesson. I learned it the very hard way on Iraq," said Edwards, who voted to give Bush power for war with Iraq five years ago but has apologized for it. "You cannot give this president any authority because he will abuse it."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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