Obama defends his lack of international experience

DES MOINES, Iowa – Democrat Barack Obama on Sunday accused his presidential rivals of political maneuvering for saying he lacks experience and he insisted he could handle the rigors of international diplomacy.

The candidates began their latest debate by critiquing the freshman senator’s recent comments on Pakistan and whether he would meet with foreign leaders – including North Korea’s head of state – without conditions.

“To prepare for this debate I rode in the bumper cars at the state fair,” the Illinois lawmaker said to laughter and applause from the audience at Drake University.

The debate capped an intense week of politicking in Iowa, an early voting state in the process of picking a nominee. The Iowa State Fair is a magnet for White House hopefuls each presidential election. This year was no exception, especially for Democrats who swept into the state after a GOP straw poll last week.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said she and Obama disagreed over how to conduct international relations with leaders who have been foes of the United States. Obama said at an earlier debate that he would have no qualms about sitting down with leaders of renegade nations such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran.

“I do not think that a president should give away the bargaining chip of a personal meeting with any leader unless you know what you are going to get out of that,” the New York senator and former first lady said.

Obama also has said he would send U.S. troops into Pakistan if the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, failed to act on specific intelligence about terrorists.