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Congressional leaders: Handle Iraq with care

Congressional leaders: Handle Iraq with care

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional leaders Sunday questioned the priorities of the Bush administration's Middle East and Arab policies, particularly in regard to rumblings about a first strike on Iraq.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said there too many "unanswered questions" exist for her to support an attack on Iraq. She urged the administration to put its muscle behind the United Nations' efforts to get weapons inspectors back into the country.

"I think that our efforts have got to focus on supporting the U.N. and isolating Saddam Hussein," Pelosi, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN's "Late Edition." "Every country in the world that has a relationship with Iraq ... should be demanding that, rather than going to the next option which is putting our young people in harm's way."

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, who recently returned from the Middle East, said it was a mistake not to have to taken out al Qaeda's Afghan camps in the 1990s.

The United States, he said, on NBC's "Meet the Press," must "deal with these training camps that have developed in Syria and Lebanon."

"We should first give the Syrians and the Lebanese the opportunity to clean up their own house," Graham said. "That is a more serious threat to the United States in my judgment than Saddam Hussein."

President Bush frequently has warned that a change in regime is needed in Iraq and also has threatened to take the offensive against hostile states.

According to an article in Friday's New York Times, the U.S. military has put together a preliminary planning document that calls for air, land and sea-based forces to attack Iraq.

An Iraqi newspaper editorial said Sunday that the United States wants to invade Iraq "despite objections raised by the European Union, China, Russia and many other world countries." (Full story)

Graham, who recently returned from a Middle East trip, called the Iraqi leader "a very bad, evil person" and admitted "there may come a time when we need to take singular action against him. But there is no support among the Arab states for the United States attacking at this time."

U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, admitted the Iraq question was "very, very complicated."

"The fundamental question is, 'What comes next?' " Hagel said on "Meet the Press."

"Will what we do further destabilize the region, make it harder for our Arab allies? We need to think this through," he said. "We need to enhance our relationships. We need friendships. We can't arbitrarily go after Saddam Hussein."

The Iraqi president should be replaced, said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, came down on the president's side.

"I am concerned about this regime remaining in power," Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he said on CNN's "Late Edition." "We need a regime change. The president agrees with that, and a lot of the top officials agree. ...I believe the overwhelming majority of the Congress would support the president in that regard," he said.

Shelby and Pelosi agreed that they think president's goal to eliminate terrorism "wherever it exists" is sound, although Pelosi was reluctant to use military intervention as a first resort.

"We are the greatest country in the world," she said. "We can do things in a better way."




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