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Romney Urges More Assertive US Foreign Policy
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said it is "time to change course" in the Middle East, accusing President Barack Obama of not being assertive enough on the world stage.
In a major foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military institute, Mr Romney suggested the United States and the Middle East were less safe now than at the start of Mr Obama's term.
The White House hopeful also accused Mr Obama of "failing to lead in Syria" and claimed his handling of the crisis was emblematic of a president that opts to "lead from behind" instead of asserting US influence.
He called for arms to go to Syrian rebels and pledged he would keep Iran in check, chase terrorists in Libya, put conditions on US aid to Egypt and impose tighter sanctions on Iran.
Mr Romney said: "I know the President hopes for a safer, freer and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy."
"It is time to change course in the Middle East," he said.
"We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds ... and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity."
Mr Romney acknowledged that Mr Obama had taken some key steps, notably the elimination of chief terror suspect Osama bin Laden.
"But when we look at the Middle East today - with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability ... with violent extremists on the march, and with an American ambassador and three others dead (in Benghazi, Libya) likely at the hands of al Qaeda affiliates - it is clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the President took office," he said.
Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee and a staunch supporter of greater US involvement in Syria, described Mr Romney's speech as "a blueprint for restoring America's strength in the world".
It comes a week after the first presidential debate, in which Mr Obama's performance was widely seen as weaker than Mr Romney's.
However, Mr Obama's camp hit back. "We're not going to be lectured by someone who has been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy," said his campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki.