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WH: No administration conflict on Iraq

Powell comments scrutinized

In a weekend interview, Secretary of State Colin Powell said U.N. weapons inspectors should be sent back into Iraq.
In a weekend interview, Secretary of State Colin Powell said U.N. weapons inspectors should be sent back into Iraq.  

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- There is no rift within the administration concerning U.S. policy on Iraq, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Monday, following weekend comments from Secretary of State Colin Powell that raised anew such questions.

"There is no difference in position between Cheney, Powell, and President Bush," Fleischer told reporters aboard Air Force One as the president flew to Pittsburgh for a Labor Day speech. "It's much ado about no difference."

Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney made the case for pre-emptive action in Iraq, while Powell on Sunday urged that weapons inspectors be given one last chance before any attack.

In an interview, Powell told the BBC that the first order of business should be to send weapons inspectors back to Iraq.

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"Iraq has been in violation of these many U.N. resolutions for most of the last 11 or so years," Powell said. "As a first step, let's see what the inspectors find, send them back in."

But Cheney, in two separate speeches to veterans last week, made the case for pre-emptive military action, and suggested U.N. weapons inspections would be pointless, because Saddam Hussein has a history of breaking agreements.

"A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with U.N. resolutions," he said.

Fleischer reiterated that point Monday. "Iraq changes positions more often than Saddam Hussein changes bunkers," he said.

Fleischer said Powell and Cheney agree on the administration's main goal is it relates to Iraq -- a regime change.

A top adviser to the administration of Bush's father said the current president's policy on Iraq appears to be in disarray.

"We do not understand the morass we will be walking into, unless the threat is so immediate that we must act," former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger told NBC Sunday.

"And Vice President Cheney keeps saying it is immediate, and then we hear immediately thereafter that the president hasn't made up his mind yet," he said. "I think there's a disconnect here, and I don't understand it."

In an address to the U.N. General Assembly scheduled for September 12, President Bush is expected to call on the international community to support the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Some political observers say he may also use that forum to lay out the administration's case to the U.S. public and the rest of the world for military intervention in Iraq.

--White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report




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