Retired NATO commander Wesley Clark on Wednesday joined the race for the post of US president. He announced his candidacy in Arkansas, ex-president Bill Clinton's home state. Both Clinton and former vice-president Al Gore support his candidature.
Clark said his war-tested military record makes him the ideal Democrat to ensure the nation's security in a post-September 11 world.
His 11-minute address filled with military references, criticism of President George W Bush and pleas to Democratic, independent and even Republican voters alienated by the political process. Clark left the stage promising major economic and foreign policy speeches soon.
He has cast himself as a centrist, southern Democrat who favours abortion rights and affirmative action while opposing the war in Iraq. In an interview with a news agency shortly before the address, Clark called the conflict 'purely an elective war' and criticized Bush for waging it without better justification.
"For the first time since the Cold War, many Americans no longer feel safe in their homes and work places," Clark told the crowd outside a boys and girls club. "These are historic times and we are going to run a campaign that is worthy of historic times."
Clark's advisers are expected to capitalize on Clark's affinity for television to build momentum. His first post-announcement stop will be Florida, aides said.