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Democratic congressmen arrive in Baghdad

McDermott, left, and Bonior are not expecting to meet with Saddam.
McDermott, left, and Bonior are not expecting to meet with Saddam.

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Watch CNN's exclusive interview with Reps. Bonior and McDermott live from Baghdad only on NewsNight with Aaron Brown , Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three U.S. congressmen -- critics of U.S. military action against Iraq -- arrived here Friday on a mission to convince Iraqi leaders to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return without interference in order to avoid war.

Reps. David Bonior, D-Michigan, Jim McDermott, D-Washington, and Michael Thompson, D-California, landed in Baghdad with a delegation of humanitarian workers and others.

"I don't want us to use war as the first option ever. I think it should always be the last option, and we should go the extra mile, if we can reach a peaceful resolve," Thompson on CNN's "Wolf Blitzer Reports."

"While we were here, we made some humanitarian visits, we saw the product of the last war. We saw the product of this dictator, and, his unwillingness to work towards the resolve that we are all looking for, and that product is children, children that are suffering," he added.

"We want every diplomatic effort made to resolve this without war. We have no interest in war and want our administration to pursue every area before war," McDermott said upon his arrival in Baghdad. "It has to be [the] last option and the United States in our opinion shouldn't make the first strike ever."

The congressmen are scheduled to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi health minister and other senior Iraqi officials, but have no plans for a meeting with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

While in Iraq, the congressmen will also visit hospitals, food distribution sites and other similar locations so they can get a feel for the humanitarian situation.

"I tend to think there are other ways to deal with the disarmament of Iraq, and we should exhaust every single possibility to do that before the United States takes the absolutely unprecedented step of a pre-emptive strike," McDermott said in a statement before leaving for Iraq.

Iraq has offered to allow weapons inspectors to return, and a senior aide to Saddam said Tuesday they would have "unfettered access," but details remain to be worked out.

"What is there to risk in waiting two weeks [before weapons inspectors return] to see what kind of access is provided? There is no risk," Bonior told CNN's "American Morning" earlier in the week.

McDermott agreed.

"What I am advising is that we have the inspections," he said. "No one is saying that Saddam Hussein is a good person or honest or trustworthy or loyal or reverent."

President Bush has asked the United Nations to enforce its resolutions requiring Iraq to give up weapons of mass destruction. Bush has warned the United Nations that the United States will move against Iraq by itself if the U.N. Security Council fails to take action.

Bonior called for caution ahead of any U.S. military action.

"We continue to rattle sabers and pound war drums, and yet we have very little idea of challenges we could face afterwards," Bonior said in a statement. "What happens to our standing on the world stage if we act alone?"



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