IMAGE: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Mary Altaffer  /  AP
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told a crowd in Westport, Conn., Wednesday, "If someone is about to launch a weapon that would devastate America, or have the capability to do so, obviously, you would have to act immediately."
updated 4/10/2008 10:25:38 AM ET 2008-04-10T14:25:38

Republican Sen. John McCain refused Wednesday to rule out a pre-emptive war against another country, although he said one would be very unlikely.

The likely Republican presidential nominee was asked Wednesday at a town-hall style meeting if he would reject "the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war," a reference to Bush's decision to invade Iraq without it having attacked the United States.

"I don't think you could make a blanket statement about pre-emptive war, because obviously, it depends on the threat that the United States of America faces," McCain told his audience at Bridgewater Associates Inc., a global investment firm.

"If someone is about to launch a weapon that would devastate America, or have the capability to do so, obviously, you would have to act immediately in defense of this nation's national security interests."

McCain said he would consult more closely and more carefully "not with every member of Congress, but certainly the leaders of Congress."

The Iraq war was in the spotlight this week as Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander there, gave Congress a status report on the war. McCain argues for keeping troops in Iraq to capitalize on security gains, despite a recent outbreak of violence. His Democratic rivals, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton argue for withdrawing troops.

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