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McCain opinion article rejected by New York Times

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign said on Monday a McCain opinion article about Iraq offered to The New York Times as a rebuttal to Democrat Barack Obama had been rejected.

Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks at a campaign picnic outside the Maine Military Museum in South Portland, Maine July 21, 2008. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The McCain camp had submitted the article to The Times as a response to a piece by Obama published by the newspaper last week.

“My Plan for Iraq” had detailed Obama’s goal of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in 16 months if he is elected on November 4.

The McCain article was largely a critique of Obama’s position, arguing against establishing a set timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.

McCain is attempting to make sure his voice is heard while Obama picks up headlines with a visit this week to Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East and Europe.

“During the course of eight visits to Iraq, I have heard many times from our troops what Major General Jeffrey Hammond, commander of coalition forces in Baghdad, recently said: that leaving based on a timetable would be ‘very dangerous,’” McCain wrote.

An e-mail sent to the McCain staff by a Times editor said it would be terrific to have an article from McCain but that the one sent in was not acceptable as currently written and that a new draft should articulate how McCain defines victory in Iraq.

The McCain campaign, which does not feel McCain gets equal treatment in the U.S. news media, expressed dismay at the Times’ decision and suspected it was because the Times did not agree with McCain’s policy.

“John McCain believes that victory in Iraq must be based on conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables. Unlike Barack Obama, that position will not change based on politics or the demands of The New York Times,” said McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds.

The New York Times said it was standard procedure to have a “back and forth with an author about his or her submission” and looked forward to publishing McCain’s views.

“We have published at least seven Op-ed pieces by Senator McCain since 1996. The New York Times endorsed Senator McCain as the Republican candidate in the presidential primaries. We take his views very seriously,” said the statement from Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis.

Reporting by Steve Holland and Robert MacMillan; editing by David Wiessler