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McCain: War 'will be over soon'

From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- At a town hall here this morning McCain told a crowd of well over 500 people that America's involvement in a "war" in Iraq is almost over. When asked about the benchmarks that would have to be met before American troops could start coming home, McCain was reminded of his controversial comments from last year that American troops might be in Iraq for 100 years.

"That reminds me of this 100-year thing," McCain said. "I was asked at a town hall meeting…how long would we have a presence in Iraq. My friends, the war will be over soon. The war for all intents and purposes [will be over], although the insurgency will go on for years and years and years, but it'll be handled by the Iraqis not by us, and then we decide what kind of security arrangement we want to have with the Iraqis."

Later in the event, McCain talked about how such a resolution in Iraq or Afghanistan might come about and how America should deal with countries that the government has deemed sponsors of terrorism -- such as Cuba and North Korea. In doing so he managed to take a subtle jab at Obama who has said that he would meet with the leaders of such countries without preconditions.

"I think one of the most overrated aspects of diplomacy is talks," McCain said. "For example, I don't know why in the world you would want to sit down with Raul Castro under no conditions for it. I have no idea what that would do except perhaps enhance the prestige of a guy who was really the enforcer for Fidel Castro for long periods of time."

Also, McCain dismissed a complaint filed with the FEC today by the Democratic National Committee over McCain's decision to withdraw from public financing after using his qualification for financing as collateral for a loan and to gain free access to several states' ballots.

"What we're doing is exactly what Howard Dean did in a previous election and what the FEC ruled in the case of Congressman Gephardt. So I have no doubt about the eventual outcome," McCain said.

Just yesterday Howard Dean held a conference call about this issue explaining that he did not use his qualification for public financing to secure a loan and he waited for the FEC's approval before withdrawing his qualification for public financing, something McCain did not do.