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Republican VP Candidate Palin Defends Her Experience

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has defended her experience and taken a tough stance on national security issues in a much-anticipated interview. The Alaskan governor was a virtual unknown on the national stage when picked by Republican presidential nominee John McCain in late August, and his campaign has sheltered her from reporters' and voters' questions - until now. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Governor Sarah Palin has served just two years as Alaska's governor and obtained her first passport to travel to visit U.S. troops in Kuwait and Germany last year. But she told ABC News' Charlie Gibson in an exclusive interview that she did not hesitate for a moment when Senator McCain asked her to serve as his running mate.

"I answered [McCain] 'yes,' because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can't blink," Palin said.

The interview focused on national security.

Palin called Russia's invasion of neighboring Georgia "unprovoked" and "unacceptable." Asked if the United States would have to go to war with Russia if Russia invaded Georgia again, Palin had this response.

"Perhaps so," she said. "I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help."

Palin said she favors the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO.

ABC News Anchor Gibson also asked Palin several times whether or not U.S. forces have the right to make cross-border attacks into Pakistan with or without the approval of the Pakistani government. Palin responded, several times, with a more general statement, and declined to give a "yes" or "no" answer.

"In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists, who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes, and we must not blink," said Palin.

Her running mate, Senator McCain, has criticized Democratic Presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama, for advocating U.S. cross-border strikes into Pakistan, with or without government consent, if valuable terrorist targets are found.

Part of the interview was aired on September 11, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, and the day that Palin, the mother of five, attended a deployment ceremony for her oldest son. He is an Army infantryman whose unit is being shipped off to the war in Iraq later this month.

Opinion polls show that adding Palin to the ticket has given McCain's campaign a big boost. Palin has attained an instant "celebrity status", similar to the popularity of Obama. She has been appearing on the campaign trail with McCain this week, drawing much larger crowds than he drew on his own.

Palin's interview with ABC is the only one the McCain campaign has scheduled so far.