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McCain Speaks - Part I

On Saturday John McCain was in town to give a boost to the campaign of Republican David McSweeney, who is mounting a serious challenge to Democrat Melissa Bean in Illinois 8th Congressional District. Here is a partial transcript of McCain's remarks and responses to questions from the media:

McCain on the crisis in the Middle East: "We are possibly on the brink of a major conflict in the Middle East. Israel has been attacked.

Many of our European friends have urged that the Israelis stop or pull back. I would remind you that if people crossed our border and killed our soldiers and captured our soldiers, our citizens would expect a vigorous response.

I think it's important to recognize that Hezbollah and Hamas are both supported, and in some ways a creation of the Iranians. And the Iranians have provided them with training, with weapons, and the motivation to attack Israel. I don't think this attack would have taken place without the encouragement, at the very minimum, and the permission of the Iranian government.

Hezbollah must be disarmed. Hezbollah must be disarmed. If you had a ceasefire, which we all want, without the Lebanese government controlling its own country, in other words controlling Hezbollah and Hezbollah being disarmed, then you would see a recurrence of this kind of terrorist activity in the future.

Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organizations. They are dangerous in of themselves, but when they have a state sponsoring them, such as Iran and Syria are doing with Hezbollah, then the challenge becomes even greater."

On whether the U.S. has been too weak with respect to Iran: "I think that this administration has handled a very difficult situation with regards to Iran as well as we could. The focus up till now has obviously been on Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. We have stayed with our European allies and kept them with us as we go the UN Security Council. We have known, and this administration has known, of Iranian involvement in southern Iraq and their increasing influence there and problems they've created there.

But I'm not sure what else we could have done. Now we obviously have reason to get tougher with Iran. I've said on several occasions, it would be a terrible thing for us to have to intervene militarily because of the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons. There would only be one thing worse and that would be Iran acquiring nuclear weapons."

On Iranian involvement in the fighting in Lebanon: "The drone that struck the Israeli ship could not have been achieved, either acquired or operated by Hezbollah alone. It had to have Iranian involvement in it and serious Iranian involvement in it, so I don't think there's any doubt in any expert's mind that the Iranians are heavily involved with equipping and training of Hezbollah including many of those rockets that are being fired as we speak into Haifa and other cities are Iranian made."

On the military option with Iran: "I want to make this clear: before we seriously consider a military option we have to make sure we've exhausted every other, including using the United Nations to impose severe sanctions on Iran. I am in no way advocating exercising the military option at this time, what I am saying is that we can't remove it."