Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) attacked Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. yesterday for questioning America's military confrontation with Iraq, saying, "The only three people I know who suppport Saddam Hussein's position are Moammar Gadhafi, Yasser Arafat and Jim Moran."

Moran said he was stunned by Parris's comment and angrily called Parris "a deceitful, fatuous jerk . . . I want to break his nose."

In a Capitol Hill news conference, Parris launched his first assault on his Democratic opponent, attacking remarks Moran made last week about President Bush's policy toward Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Parris said that "at a time when U.S. citizens are being held hostage . . . {Moran's comments} amount to playing politics with their lives."

Moran, at a news conference last Wednesday, expressed concern that "the United States acts precipitously and unilaterally far too often" in foreign affairs, and said, "We should let the United Nations take the lead" in Iraq. He neither endorsed nor directly criticized Bush's decision to mass troops in Saudi Arabia. Moran did not mention American hostages.

"There is no depth to which {Parris} won't sink for a vote," Moran said yesterday. "Of course, I don't support Saddam Hussein. And I would never consider accusing someone of that . . . . {Parris} is an offensive individual."

Moran acknowledged that he expressed concern about United States policy last week, but said he is pleased that the United Nations since has endorsed the use of force to maintain the economic embargo against Iraq if necessary. Moran issued a statement yesterday that for the first time explicitly praised Bush, saying, "I applaud the president's quick response to the Iraqi crisis."

This pointed exchange between Moran and Parris comes more than two months before the Nov. 6 election and effectively opens what is expected to be a bruising campaign. Moran, considered the underdog, is vying to break Parris's 12-year hold on Northern Virginia's 8th Congressional District, which includes Alexandria, southern Fairfax County, eastern Prince William County and northern Stafford County.

Moran made his initial remarks about Iraq at a news conference he had called to discuss abortion. "I don't think we should be out there on a limb alone," Moran said, responding to a question about Iraq. "We need a lot of thought before we commit ourselves to any military conflict.

"What I say is cautionary. Much of our involvement in Vietnam was face-saving."

Parris responded yesterday with a reference to Vietnam and another to Korea, where he served as a combat pilot. "I am getting a little tired of people in this situation," Parris said, "who suggest that the strongest nation in the world, which is the United States, should not be assertive in protection of our interests.

"I was in Korea," he said. "I remember the frustrations" of observing strict limitations on combat engagement. "I remember the frustrations of Vietnam. This time, we've got to be in earnest. We've got to see it through."

Parris also said that if American forces are attacked by Iraq they should strike back decisively, even if it means sacrificing the lives of hostages. "I think we cannot subjugate the critical interests of the nation . . . to those being held hostage," he said.

Moran said he "was not going to jump to conclusions that we would have to bomb targets" where hostages might be held. If that question arises, he said he would "support President Bush's decision . . . . I would not prejudge what should be done."