Thompson says due process for Osama bin Laden if caught

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson said Monday that Osama bin Laden "needs to be located and killed," but that the terrorist mastermind should get due process if he's caught.

Thompson also told reporters during his first presidential campaign swing through this early voting state that removing bin Laden would not end threats to the U.S.

Bin Laden "needs to be located and killed. But we also need to understand that there will be people who can replace him. You know, that top-dog in Iraq that we killed a while back, you know, that was a great big deal, too. But how much changed after that?" said Thompson, a former Tennessee senator, lawyer and actor.

Thompson on Friday told an Iowa crowd that bin Laden "ought to be caught and killed," but on Monday said he wasn't saying those things should happen right after the other.

"No, no, no, we've got due process to go through" depending on the circumstances, he said. "I'm not suggesting those things happen simultaneously."

Thompson spoke to about 350 people who crowded into a hotel banquet hall to see him launch the South Carolina leg of his campaign in this first-in-the-South primary state. For many, it was a day they had eagerly awaited.

"I'm here today because I'm a lot like you are," Thompson told the South Carolina crowd, adding he was pleased to be in a state close to home, "not only geographically, but in a lot of ways."

Tony Hawkins, an Iraq war Marine veteran, said waiting for Thompson to officially get in the race was worth it. "I like his character. He walks the talk," Hawkins said.

With a report on the progress of the Iraq war out this week, Thompson told the crowd that the nation needs to unite.

"The whole world is watching to see whether or not we have the will and determination to do what is right," Thompson said. "The most dangerous thing in the world that could happen to us today ... is to appear weak and divided. That will be the most dangerous thing to our homeland that you can imagine."

Thompson also railed against same-sex marriage and the judges whose rulings allow it. Thompson said the U.S. is a nation of laws, but judges "more often than not are the main violators of the rule of law."

He said the "same-sex marriage business" is a "judicially created thing and needs to be addressed by a constitutional amendment."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)