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Hamilton urges more discussion about Mideast

Monday, October 30, 2006

While the main topic of conversation was Iraq Thursday, former U.S. congressman Lee Hamilton also took time to mull over the nuclear issues involving both Iran and North Korea.

Hamilton kicked off the 2006 DePauw Discourse Thursday with "How Deep is America's Crisis?"

The event -- which took place at Meharry Hall in the East College building -- was moderated by former ABC news correspondent John McWethy.

Both graduated from DePauw University.

Hamilton, a 1952 DPU graduate, spent most of his time discussing the newly-formed Iraq Study Group, of which he is co-chairman with James Baker, former Secretary of state under the George H.W. Bush administration.

But following a lengthy discussion on the study group, which plans on delivering its findings to the Bush administration soon, McWethy, a 1969 graduate, changed focus by asking Hamilton questions regarding Iran and North Korea.

In recent months, North Korea has tested nuclear weapons while Iran has also expressed interest in nuclear power.

"We're deeply concerned, as we should be, about Iran's nuclear behavior," Hamilton said. "They seem quite determined to move ahead on it."

Hamilton said Iran has been difficult to deal with for at least three decades, but suggested diplomacy with the country is something the United States should consider.

"I don't see how you solve problems without talking," Hamilton said, pointing to the Bush administration's hardline approach on dealing with both Iran and North Korea. "We have to work toward that with Iran."

Hamilton suggested one-on-one conversation with leaders from Iran and an expanded agenda for the country.

"You can't just play the ball game on your court," he said.

Regarding North Korea, Hamilton said the United States should take a similar approach, saying he thought the U.S. should return to multi-party talks. However, Hamilton said it's difficult to understand the approach of North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Il.

"They've got a leader there that's a huge puzzle to us," Hamilton said. "Time is against us, because while we're not talking, they're building weapons."

Hamilton stressed the Bush administration should explain to the country that regime change is not an option that is being considered.

"(President Bush) should have said, 'we're not seeking regime change in North Korea,'" Hamilton said. "We're seeking behavior change."

The Iraq study group is a bipartisan independent panel of 10 people and was formed last spring. Also on the panel is 1957 DePauw graduate Vernon Jordan.

Hamilton graduated from DePauw in 1952 and served 34 years as a United States congressman from Indiana. He retired from political office in 1999.

McWethy graduated from DePauw in 1969 and served as the chief national security correspondent for ABC News from 1984 until retiring in 2003. He was at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 and traveled to Tora Bora in Afghanistan during the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

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