JOHN KERRY TELLS TIME HE WILL 'ALMOST CERTAINLY' SEND HIS OWN TEAM TO IRAQ TO ASSESS SITUATION 'WITHIN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS OR MONTHS'

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New York Ė Senator John Kerry tells TIME that he "almost certainly" will send a team to Iraq "within the next few weeks or months" to help him formulate his Iraq policy positions. "I may ask some Democratic colleagues and experts to go to Iraq and make this assessment so I have a strong basis on which to proceed," he tells TIME's Perry Bacon, Lisa Beyer and Karen Tumulty on his campaign plane from Washington, DC to Florida last week. He mentions Senate colleague Joseph Biden, chief campaign foreign policy adviser Rand Beers and longtime Kerry Senate aide Nancy Stetson. But, says White House communications director Dan Bartlett, Kerry's "mission to finally understand what is happening in Iraq reveals once again that (his) attacks are based on politics, not facts."

Whatever approach he embraces will have a better chance of success, Kerry argues, because he knows how to play well with others, TIME's Nancy Gibbs reports. The interview with Kerry is part of TIME's Special Report on Iraq One Year Later (on newsstands Monday, March 8).

When asked by TIME about President Bush's hate of the word 'nuance' and his opinion of the word, Kerry says, "Some of these issues are very complicated and deserve more than a simplistic this or that," says Kerry. As he speaks, Kerry heats up, grows loud, almost angry. His message shifts: Don't for a moment think all that worldliness means he has no convictions. Or that he is weak or a waffler or a political opportunist, TIME reports.

"I donít think war is nuanced at all. I think how you take a nation to war is the most fundamental decision a President makes," Kerry says, "and there's nothing nuanced at all about keeping your promises. There is nothing nuanced about exhausting remedies that give you legitimacy and consent to go to war. And I refuse ever to accept the notion that anything I've suggested with respect to Iraq was nuanced. It was clear. It was precise. It was, in fact, prescient. It was ahead of the curve about what the difficulties were. And that is precisely what a President is supposed to be. I think I was right, 100% correct, about how you should have done Iraq."

Kerry says he learned from Vietnam, where he served as a swift boat commander, that you go to war only if all other options fail and that you had better make certain you are prepared to do what it takes to secure peace afterward. Whatever his criticisms of Bush's war, Kerry says he is committed to finishing the mission. "My exit strategy is success," he says, "a viable, stable Iraq that can contribute to the stability and peace in the Middle East."

Among the first things Kerry would do as President, says Sandy Berger, who was a National Security Adviser under Bill Clinton and has consulted with Kerry on the subject, would be to tell the American people to "put aside your misgivings or whatever you thought about this in the beginning. We cannot fail now." TIME PR Contacts:

Ty Trippet (212) 522-3640

Jennifer Zawadzinski (212) 522-9046

Diana Pearson (212) 522-0833

Nadine Ferber (212) 522-4714

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