By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the leading candidate to be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, voiced sharp disagreement with President Barack Obama on Monday on foreign policy issues from Ukraine to Iran.
McCarthy was strongly critical of the Democratic president in a speech that could increase his appeal to hardline conservatives who sought to oust the current speaker, John Boehner, who abruptly announced his resignation on Friday.
"The absence of leadership over the past six years has had horrific consequences all across the globe, and it is getting worse day by day," McCarthy said in a speech to the John Hay Initiative, an organization of Republican foreign policy veterans.
McCarthy, 50, currently the number two House Republican as Majority Leader, has emerged as the most likely candidate to succeed Boehner as speaker. He has not yet formally announced that he would run for the post, but no clear rival has emerged.
In the speech, McCarthy provided a list of foreign policy suggestions that largely conflicted with Obama administration policies.
There has been little common ground between congressional Republicans and Obama on foreign policy during Obama's tenure in office, and McCarthy's comments made clear that was unlikely to change if he were to become speaker.
McCarthy said the United States should provide lethal aid to Ukraine as it faces Russian aggression and target Russia's Gazprom energy company, spelled out strong opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran and called for tougher sanctions, and backed measures to deal with the crisis in Syria including a no-fly zone in northern Syria and tougher measures against Islamic State militants.
"We must wage this war against radical Islam as if our life depended on it, because it does," McCarthy said.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bernard Orr)