Haley Barbour meets with GOP leaders in Nevada

(AP) - Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Tuesday the Obama administration was slow to take action to stem violence in Libya, but the possible presidential contender Tuesday offered no opinion on what he thought the appropriate U.S. response should have been.

"The administration dithered a long time before making a decision," Barbour told reporters in Carson City during a break from meetings with Republican leaders and party supporters.

He stopped short of openly criticizing President Obama on Libya.

"When our men and women are in military action, I think we should be very careful about critiquing the administration's moves," he said.

He also said the United States needs "to be careful we don't get involved in some nation-building scheme," something Obama has said is not the intent of the multinational military partnership in the north African nation.

Barbour was in Nevada to meet with Republican Party supporters and test the waters in this early caucus and potential swing state to gauge support for a possible White House run in 2012.

"If I run I will compete to win Nevada in the caucus and win Nevada in the general election," he said.

Speaking to reporters for about 10 minutes, he also said he'd restore funding to Yucca Mountain, the proposed high level nuclear waste repository in southern Nevada now in limbo.

The Energy Department last year filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to withdraw its application for the Yucca Mountain repository. The commission has not ruled on the motion, but the Energy Department has gone ahead with dismantling the project.

Lawsuits filed by other states are now pending on whether the Obama administration has the authority to pull the plug on the project.

Barbour said Yucca Mountain should not be abolished "because the American public has invested billions of dollars" in it.

Barbour, 63, also had a meeting with Gov. Brian Sandoval, but said he didn't expect his fellow Republican to openly endorse him so early in the campaign season.

"I assume he's going to keep his powder dry," Barbour said.

Barbour's trek through largely Republican northern Nevada comes at the start of the "preliminary parade and a build up to the caucuses in February," said Mark Amodei, state Republican Party chairman, who was to introduce Barbour at a meet-and-greet in Carson City.

"It's March and it's not too early for the process to start, for people to start gauging the landscape in Nevada," Amodei said. "Nevada's still considered a battleground state."

Nevada gained status as a mover in presidential politics for Democrats in 2008, when candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton frequented the state in an effort to sway the state's early caucus in January, then the fifth in the nation.

But Republican presidential hopefuls largely skipped the state, and it didn't help that the GOP caucus results were nonbinding, giving candidates little incentive to jockey for delegates. The state party changed that for 2012.

Prospective presidential nominees Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin have all stopped in Nevada in recent months, and state GOP leaders hope the candidate will keep coming.

Nevada Republicans hold their caucus Feb. 18, 2012.

Barbour was White House political director for President Ronald Reagan during the mid-1980s, and ran for governor in Mississippi in 2003, unseating one-term Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. Barbour was re-elected in 2007 and cannot seek another term.

He became chairman of the Republican Governors Association in June 2009 when South Carolina's Mark Sanford stepped down from the post after admitting an affair with a woman from Argentina. Barbour served as chairman through last November.

In the past several weeks, Barbour has traveled to several early primary or caucus states, including Iowa and South Carolina. He spoke this past weekend at the California Republican Convention and last week in Chicago.

Barbour has said it will be at least April before he decides whether he's fully committed to a presidential run.


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