Republican presidential contender John McCain said he would meet with leaders of Iran and North Korea only if the encounter would guarantee a US win.
"The logic is, you don't want to do something that enhances the image and prestige of someone who is your adversary, OK?" McCain told reporters traveling with him on a four-day campaign trip to northern New Hampshire.
The Arizona senator said on Friday there could be disastrous results if the outcome of meetings with any hostile leaders were not predetermined.
"Are you going to accomplish something? That's the key. If you're going to go in and you're confident you are going to accomplish something, fine, do it," he said. "Know what the outcome is going to be so you're not embarrassed by the person you're talking to walking out and embarrassing [you] and enhancing their own prestige."
The subject of meeting with leaders hostile to the US dominated weeks of the Democrats' debate between senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton said she would not meet with hostile leaders without condition; Obama said he would.
McCain would not say Clinton was correct.
His top aide, Mark Salter, helped him move past the subject with a joke about Clinton changing her politcal stances.
McCain said former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger's approach was one to follow.
"Kissinger never scheduled a meeting that he didn't know exactly what the outcome was and what was going to be said at the end," the senator said.
Too many of his peers are placing a premium on their ability to conduct person-to-person diplomacy, McCain said.
He cited as an example US president Franklin D. Roosevelt and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
"When Roosevelt said: `I like Uncle Joe and if we're nice to him, he'll be nice to us,' I don't think he understood Uncle Joe," McCain said.
"Too often, people think that because they have this good personal relationships, that it somehow is going to affect -- that their relationship will affect their national security policy. I think it opens lines of communication," he said. "I think it's vastly overrated."
McCain also said that officials "freelancing" on foreign policy hurt the country.
"We elect one president. When senators and members of Congress start freelancing, it's always a mistake," he said.
McCain said he was confused about Clinton's vow to send Democrats and Republicans abroad as goodwill ambassadors.
"I would have a tendency to ask people to have a specific mission, rather than just saying: `Why don't you go over and be real nice to the folks in Yemen?'" he said.