ERIE, Pa. — Presidential rivals John McCain and Barack Obama on Monday called for a multi-pronged diplomatic effort to force Russia to withdraw from Georgia, saying Moscow's relationship with the rest of the world depends on it backing down.
Both candidates said Europe and other nations must be united against Russia's widening assault against Georgia, Washington's closest ally among the democratizing former Soviet republics.
McCain said NATO should reconsider its decision to withhold a "membership action plan" for Georgia. That decision "might have been viewed as a green light by Russia for its attacks on Georgia," McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, said.
Speaking to reporters in Pennsylvania, McCain said Russia appears intent on toppling the Georgian government rather than simply restoring the status quo in the pro-Moscow province of South Ossetia, which Georgia is trying to keep from breaking away.
"NATO's North Atlantic Council should convene in emergency session to demand a cease-fire and begin discussions on both the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to South Ossetia and the implications for NATO's future relationship with Russia," McCain said. The United States "should coordinate with our partners in Germany, France and Britain."
Obama, a Democratic senator from Illinois, also urged a multinational response but added that the U.N. Security Council should play a major role in helping end the crisis. He said the Security Council should pass a resolution calling for an immediate end to the violence and urged a U.N. mediator to join French and Finnish foreign ministers in Georgia to try to end the fighting.
"The U.N. must stand up for the sovereignty of its members and peace in the world," Obama told reporters during his weeklong vacation in Hawaii.
Like McCain, Obama warned that Russia's future relationships are at stake. An international forum, he said, should review Russia's interest in joining the World Trade Organization.
"We want Russia to play its rightful role as a great nation," Obama said. "But with that role comes the responsibility to act as a force for progress in this new century, not regression to the conflicts of the past."
RUNNING MATE: Obama is close to choosing a running mate, and the first person to find out could be you. In an e-mail to supporters, Obama's campaign manager said voters can sign up to receive an e-mail or a text message "the moment" he makes his decision.
INQUIRY SOUGHT: A political watchdog group called for investigations Monday to determine whether fundraisers for McCain arranged illegal "straw" donations — contributions from people who did not spend their own money. Campaign Money Watch urged Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate the activities of Florida defense contractor Harry Sargeant III, who is credited with raising more than $500,000 for the campaign. It also questioned $57,000 in donations from an office manager for oil giant Hess Corp., and her husband, a railroad foreman.
Information from McClatchy Newspapers was used in this report.