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CIA-Hussein report: Support, condemnation

Lawmakers back proposal to oust Hussein; Baghdad sneers

CIA-Hussein report: Support, condemnation

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A published report that President Bush had issued an executive order to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had repercussions over the weekend, drawing support from several key congressional leaders while eliciting disdain from Baghdad.

Responding to a Washington Post report that President Bush had issued an executive order authorizing the CIA to use whatever means necessary to remove Hussein -- including, if necessary, a military strike -- Sen. Richard Shelby, R.-Alabama, said, "The president's on the right track."

"How we do it, when we do it, I don't know and I'm not even sure the president knows," Shelby said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." "But this man needs to go."

The Post article, quoting an unnamed source, said the CIA was authorized to undertake a comprehensive covert operation that could include use of Special Forces. Another source told the paper that the covert operation would likely be preparation for a full-scale military attack.

In Baghdad, a top Iraqi official Monday said the report didn't surprise him at all.

"It's not new," said Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri. "For more than 30 years, the United States has conspired against Iraq. And it conspires against any independent state in the world. "

The Bush administration has declined comment on the report, but others were more forthcomng.

GOP Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama talks with CNN on Sunday.
GOP Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama talks with CNN on Sunday.  

Sen. Evan Bayh, D.-Indiana, a member of the Senate Select Intelligence committee along with Shelby, said he would endorse whatever action Bush takes against Hussein "wholeheartedly," but added that the United States would need "to develop as much diplomatic support as we can."

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that a covert operation to topple Hussein would be "fine," but added that the nation should be prepared for military action.

"I think we also ought to prepare the American public, by way of informing them, that Saddam Hussein has these weapons, continues to attempt to improve their capability, and would not be reluctant to export them to other countries," McCain said. "So he presents a clear and present danger."

"I think there is broad support for a regime change in Iraq," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said on "Fox News Sunday." "I think the timing of all of this is very important. But we want to work with the administration and try to find the best way and the best time to do this."

Daschle said that the Washington Post report was not news to Congress, and that he was satisfied with consultations between the administration and congressional leadership. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said on ABC's "This Week" that the House had been briefed about the order "some months ago."

"I concur in the goal of dealing with this problem, seeing that U.N. resolutions are not violated any further and that he complies with them," he said. "And if it takes a change of the government, then so be it."

Gephardt said he didn't see any conflict between sending U.S. Special Forces to capture and, if necessary, kill Hussein, and a U.S. policy against assassinating heads of state.

"I think the policy is still intact," he said. "I think in this case, it's trying to bring about a change of regime because they have continued to violate and flout U.N. resolutions and international law."

Bush has said the nation's war on terror is not over.In a commencement address delivered last week to the graduates of the U.S. Military Academy, the president the United States would not stand idly by while rogue leaders backed the efforts of terrorists.

"If we wait for threats to materialize, we will have waited too long," he said without mentioning any country by name. "The war on terror will not be won on the defensive -- we must take the battle to the enemy."




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