By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent
BETHLEHEM, Pa. (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, under pressure to say which foreign leaders were rooting for him to beat President Bush, refused on Sunday to reveal any names.
"No leader would obviously share a conversation if I started listing them," Kerry told reporters after Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested he name some names or stop implying foreign leaders were encouraging him to beat Bush.
Kerry, who visited the battleground state of Pennsylvania to slam Bush's health care policy and hold a town hall meeting, said last week he had met foreign leaders who told him "you've got to beat this guy" because of unhappiness over U.S. foreign policy.
He was challenged on the issue by Powell, who said on "Fox News Sunday" that "if he feels it is that important an assertion to make, he ought to list some names. If he can't list names, then perhaps he should find something else to talk about."
Cedrick Brown, owner of a small business in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, also pressed Kerry on the issue during a town hall meeting and questioned whether he had met any foreign leaders recently.
Kerry, who last traveled overseas in late 2002, insisted he had talked to and met with foreign leaders who were rooting for him. He said during the town hall he talked to "several" in the past week and that all the conversations were not face-to-face.
He said the leaders were "at all different levels" of government and said their support was fueled by dissatisfaction with U.S. unilateralism and "arrogance" in foreign policy.
KERRY SAYS BUSH OFFERS ATTACKS NOT ANSWERS
At the town hall, Kerry accused Bush of turning his back on the nation's 41 million uninsured and of offering "misleading attacks" instead of health care answers.
The Massachusetts senator renewed his call for monthly debates with Bush on the campaign's "big choices," saying one of the biggest was health care. He accused Bush of trying to obscure his lack of solutions by attacking Kerry's plan.
"Their option -- rip it apart, tear it down, put out the distortions," Kerry told an overflow town hall crowd at a community college in Bethlehem.
Kerry, engaged in an increasingly bitter exchange of negative ads with Bush, said the president had made "history" by launching attack ads on his opponent earlier in the campaign than any previous incumbent.
On his third campaign visit to Pennsylvania since September, Kerry stressed the state's loss of 150,000 manufacturing jobs under Bush.
Joined on stage by four local residents who had lost their jobs and their health insurance, Kerry said they had to make tough choices between critical care for families and everyday necessities.
He has offered a $72 billion-a-year plan to expand access to health insurance and make it more affordable, paying for it by repealing tax cuts for Americans who make more than $200,000.
The Bush campaign said Kerry had accomplished little in the Senate to help Americans get better health care coverage and had missed 36 of 38 votes on prescription drug legislation.
"The only thing he has ever done on behalf of America's seniors is vote eight times for higher taxes on their Social Security benefits," said Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign.
Kerry earlier greeted the breakfast crowd at a diner in nearby Allentown, and stopped to eat with Mayor Roy Afflerbach and his wife. He also attended services at a Roman Catholic church in a working-class neighborhood of Allentown, where he took Holy Communion but did not speak.