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Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico was on The Exchange with Laura Knoy. Some great questions were asked about the War in Iraq, diplomacy with Iran, nuclear disarmament, and energy policy.

Listen to it here

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Bill Richardson spoke at Gibson’s Bookstore this morning. Here’s what he had to say on nuclear:

In the last Presidential debate three years ago [between John Kerry and George W. Bush], the last question was “what is the number one issue facing this nation?” John Kerry said “non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.” George Bush hesitated and then said “I agree.”

The Bush administration has done nothing to shrink the nuclear arsenal. It seems a bit hypocritical to me. It’s ok for India and Pakistan, but not Iran. So I’m wondering, do you agree this is a critical issue? And if so, as president, what would you seek to do to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in this world?

Someone in the crowd said “great question!”

Answer: The first week I would seek two treaties. 1. The treaty of all nations with nuclear weapons to dramatically reduce the number of nuclear weapons. We have 10,000 nuclear weapons. We don’t need anymore; we need fewer. I would work with the Russians to immediately cut in half the number. We don’t need to fund new warheads.

2. We also need a treaty on loose nuclear weapons and fissionable material on enriched uranium so rogue nations and terrorists do not have those weapons.

I would be an arms control president.

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Questioned following his filing with Secretary of State in Concord, NH on October 30:

Question: “Governor…as President, will you implement a no first-use policy with nuclear weapons?”

Richardson: “I will.”

Questioner: “Will you take nuclear weapons off the table with Iran?”

Richardson: “I will support a no first-use policy.”

Second questioner

Question: “I understand you just spoke with my good friend about nuclear weapons…”

Richardson: “No first use.”

Question: “I have another question about nuclear weapons…Article VI calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons…do you support that?”

Richardson: “Yes.”

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Question 1: In the ancient classic The Art of War, the author Sun Tzu promotes a strategy that results in victory without battle. It seems like your an advocate of that strategy. I would like to know what your views on dealing with Iran.

Answer: Dealing with Iran. I’d talk to Iran. I would initiate the dialogue. I would look at who, in Iran, are elements that America can talk to. Now, I’m not sure the President Ahmadinejad is, but there are moderate clerics; there are moderate elements in that country which I would reach out to. People to people first; students to students; business to business; artists to artists; religious leaders to religious leaders. Not always the government. Forty percent of Iranian people voted against Ahmadinejad when he took office. So there are elements–in fact if you watched the news two days ago, there was a student uprising calling Ahmadinejad a dictator. So there are democracy movements out there.

I would say to Iran “look, it makes no sense for you to have nuclear weapons; it makes no sense for you to help terrorists in Iraq”–which they are doing. Lets have a community of interests. Maybe you can have nuclear power supervised outside Iran. You want stability in Iraq, lets find a way to [garbled]. But if you don’t respond, they we have to look at other measures. Some measures are sanctions. Iran is a country that doesn’t have–although it has all this plentiful oil–it only has one oil refinery so they import half of their gasoline; import half of their food. Sometimes it’s going to have to take putting that kind of pressure.

But I would first [garbled] Iran into Syria. We want to make things better in the Middle East, we don’t have a Middle East Peace Envoy, I would start one. Secondly, I would declare the Two State Solution–Israel and Palestine–the Palestinian state, don’t attack Israel. The Palestinian state as the basis for a new Middle East Peace Talks, but you have to talk to Syria. How do you not talk to one of the main actors, as this President doesn’t want to do?

I was in North Korea six months ago, and we got the North Koreans to shut down their nuclear reactor. We got them to give us six of our remains of soldiers. It’s called dialogue, negotiation, diplomacy. It’s what [Niargadatta] Maharaj said: You don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies.

Question 2: I loved your Georgetown speech, which I read, and you talked closing down things like Ospry and Starwars, but one thing I wondered about is where would you put that money. I’ve been waiting all these years for that Peace Dividend. Are we finally going to see it?

Answer: I’m glad you asked me that because it’s $57 billion I propose taking out of the Pentagon, you mention Ospry, the F-22, these are outdated Cold War weapons systems. Missile defense is untested, yet we’re spending billions on it. Nuclear weapons modernization, just out of my own state, they’re made at me at Los Alamos and [garbled]. But do we need to modernize existing nuclear warheads? We need to get rid of nuclear weapons. I will reduce the number and negotiate a reduction.

I said the $57 billion, I would move to my education plan which costs $60 billion, which I outlined to you earlier, which is almost a direct trade off. I think it’s important that we tell voters how we’re going to pay for things. We have a $9 trillion dollar debt and it’s to Japan, commercial banks, China. We have to act on that; it’s irresponsible not to.

Question 3: I am very glad to hear you want to get rid of nuclear weapons. I would like to know what steps you would take to reduce the number of US nuclear weapons down from 10,000.

Answer: We have 10,000, you’re absolutely right. I would first go to Putin and I would say “We haven’t had an arms control agreement since the early Clinton years. Lets jointly reduce.” Then eventually, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, we’re all committed to reducing to zero. I’m for that, but I want to see the other side negotiate too; I want to see the other side give too. I don’t want to just do it unilaterally, but I think if we take the lead, others will follow.

Even more important than nuclear weapons, my biggest fear is what’s called “loose nuclear weapons.” A piece of enriched uranium, plutonium, this size [Richardson held up his hand] in the hands of a terrorist. I think we need a treaty of what’s called fissionable material. We’ve got to get the North Koreans, Iran, Russia, nuclear producing states to basically to have this new agreement to contain the exportation to terrorists. This is really serious.

My worst nightmare, is through the two borders, Canada and Mexico, some material gets through and used on an American city. This is why we need detection equipment.

Question 3: Will you commit to absolute elimination of all nuclear weapons on this planet?

Answer: Eventually. But it’s got to be negotiated.

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Question: Richardson was asked if he would commit to stopping future nuclear weapon construction, especially that of the Reliable Replacement Warhead.

Answer: He replied that he would have no problem stopping the Reliable Replacement Warheads. They would cost thirty billion dollars, and why do we need them? he asked. He added that we need to cut nuclear weapons, and that we do not need to increase or modernize.

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Question: Richardson was asked if he would reduce our nuclear weapons stockpile from ten thousand to one thousand weapons.

Answer: He replied that he would cut our number to five thousand unilaterally, but work with the Russians to get us down to none.

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Statement: “Here’s my position on Iraq and it’s not on the one hand on the other hand, benchmarks, etc… if I were President today, I would withdraw American troops by the end of this calendar year. I would have no residual force whatsoever. What I would do coupled with that withdrawal, using the leverage of an American withdrawal of forces, would be to convene two very strong diplomatic initiatives, two diplomatic conferences. One, in a US-led effort to get the three entities, the three religious groups, the three sects, the Sunni, the Shia, the Kurds… to put them in a room and I would say, there’s gonna be a coalition government, you’re gonna divide up oil revenues, you’re gonna divide up ministries, cabinet ministries, there’s gonna be three entities in Iraq, based on the Dayton Accords. And what I would do is have an Iraqi central government. Hopefully that would be Iraq’s future political structure…”

Click here to finish Richardson’s statements

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