Obama reviving 'experience' battle with Iraq speech

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WASHINGTON, Oct 2 (Reuters) Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, accused by rival Hillary Clinton of lacking the experience to be president, fights back today with a speech highlighting his differences with her on Iraq.

Obama will mark the five-year anniversary of a speech he gave outlining his opposition to the war with remarks in Chicago on why he feels he was right all along to be against the 4 1/2-year-old conflict.

It comes as Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, begins a new push to make up ground against Clinton, the New York senator who has a double-digit lead in national polls but whose advantage in the early voting state of Iowa is much narrower.

''He's basically going to lay out a comprehensive case for why his original opposition to the war demonstrates why he has the kind of strength and experience to lead this country,'' said Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Citing aides to Obama, The New York Times reported he will also propose setting a goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world, saying the United States should greatly reduce its stockpiles to lower the threat of nuclear terrorism.

The effort follows a Democratic debate in New Hampshire last week among the party's candidates for the November 2008 election. Leading contenders Clinton, Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards could not commit to having all U.S.

troops out of Iraq by 2013, when their prospective first term as president would end.

Edwards is to give an Iraq speech of his own in New Hampshire tomorrow, and will say how he would deal with US security contractors in Iraq accused of killing Iraqi civilians.

Obama has tried to turn the tables on Clinton in recent days by saying he has the equivalent experience that her husband, Bill Clinton, had when running for the White House in 1992.

''I remember what was said years ago by a candidate running for president,'' Obama said in New Hampshire on Saturday. ''He said, 'The same old experience is not relevant. You can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience.' ''Well that candidate was Bill Clinton. And I think he was absolutely right,'' Obama said.

Bill Clinton responded by saying Democratic candidates criticizing his wife should ask themselves ''Do they really want to reward the Republican attack machine.'' Obama and Hillary Clinton went toe-to-toe during the summer on foreign policy issues. Clinton accused Barack of lacking experience to be president when he said he would be willing to meet the leaders of hostile nations like Iran and Cuba.

Obama's position is that Americans want change rather than experience and are willing to consider new ideas that go beyond conventional Washington thinking.

REUTERS SZ RK1210

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