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Rep. King Defends Comments About Obama

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JAMES BELTRAN | March 10, 2008 11:14 PM EST | AP

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DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa Republican congressman on Monday defended his prediction that terrorists would celebrate if Democrat Barack Obama were elected president, despite a rebuke from aides to John McCain, the GOP's apparent presidential nominee.

"(Obama will) certainly be viewed as a savior for them," Rep. Steve King told The Associated Press. "That's why you will see them supporting him, encouraging him."

King said his offices have been bombarded with calls _ positive and negative _ since he said Friday that al-Qaida "would be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they would declare victory in this war on terror."

King cited Obama's pledge to pull U.S. troops from Iraq, his father's Muslim roots in Kenya and his middle name, Hussein, which King said has a meaning to terrorists.

Asked about the remarks as he campaigned in Mississippi, Obama said, "I think that Mr. King has it backwards. The fact that the continuation of a presence in Iraq as Senator McCain has suggested is exactly what, I think, will fan the flames of anti-American sentiment and make it more difficult for us to create a long-term and sustainable peace in the world.

"But I have to say that Mr. King and individuals like him thrive on offensive or controversial statements as a way to get in the papers, so I don't take it too seriously. I would hope Senator McCain would want to distance himself from that kind of inflammatory and offensive remarks," Obama said.

Aides to McCain also disavowed King's comments.

"John McCain rejects the type of politics that degrades our civics ... and obviously that extends to Congressman King's statement," spokesman Brian Rogers told The Associated Press.

Last month, McCain also denounced his introduction in Cincinnati by talk-show host Bill Cunningham, who referred to Obama three times as "Barack Hussein Obama."

Obama supporters have claimed such tactics are being used to imply that he is a Muslim.

The Illinois senator, born in Hawaii to a white Kansas woman and a Kenyan man, is a Christian and has said he has little connection to the Islamic religion, though he acknowledges spending part of his childhood in largely Muslim Indonesia.