No Foreign Endorsements, Please

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., gestures during a town hall meeting in Buffalo, NY, Sunday Feb. 29, 2004. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, who has been criticized for saying that some foreign leaders would like to see him elected to replace President Bush, will not seek or accept endorsements from foreign leaders, his chief foreign policy adviser said.

"This election will be decided by the American people, and the American people alone," Kerry adviser Rand Beers said in a statement Thursday. "It is simply not appropriate for any foreign leader to endorse a candidate in America's presidential election. John Kerry does not seek, and will not accept, any such endorsements."

The statement came after former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, an outspoken leader in the Islamic world, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he endorsed Kerry in the presidential race because he believed the Massachusetts senator would keep the world safer and listen to other opinions.

"But in the U.S., the Jewish lobby is very strong, and any American who wants to become president cannot change the policy toward Palestine radically," said Mahathir, who retired in October after 22 years in power.

"John Kerry rejects any association with former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, an avowed anti-Semite whose views are totally deplorable," Beers said. "The world needs leaders who seek to bring people together, not drive them apart with hateful and divisive rhetoric."

While campaigning in Florida last week, Kerry said he has heard from some world leaders who quietly back his candidacy and hope he is elected. To identify them would be to betray confidences, he said later.

Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have demanded that Kerry identify the leaders, but Kerry has refused. The White House also has suggested that Kerry might be lying because he will not offer the names.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bush told reporters, "If you're going to make an accusation in the course of a presidential campaign, you ought to back it up with facts."

Cheney said during a GOP fund-raiser this week, "We are the ones who get to determine the outcome of this election, not unnamed foreign leaders."

The prime minister-elect of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, said while campaigning in his country that he hoped Kerry would win in November.

On Friday, Kerry was continuing a six-day vacation with his wife, Teresa Heinz, at a family home in Sun Valley with no public events planned. Skiing and reading were on the schedule, with the possibility that Kerry would step out to speak to reporters if events warranted.

Campaign aides said that while Kerry was taking a break, the staff was putting together an aggressive strategy to highlight the differences with President Bush. Also on tap next week is a major Democratic fund-raiser in Washington with former Presidents Clinton and Carter.

"We will lay out a series of speeches on what John Kerry can do," spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said. She said Kerry planned a major speech on the economy, and would seek to renew the debate over health care and criticize the record deficits Mr. Bush is amassing.

"We will put out a detailed budget sometime in the future that will show how to get back on track," Cutter said.