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Congressmen push for arms inspections

Bonior: Administration 'dooming' the process

Rep. David Bonior, D-Michigan, left, and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, in Baghdad.
Rep. David Bonior, D-Michigan, left, and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, in Baghdad.

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BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Two U.S. congressmen visiting Iraq Monday said the U.N. arms inspections process must be played out, despite what they say are Bush administration attempts to discredit the effort.

"If you want peace," Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, said, "then you've got to let those inspections go forward. As long as they continue to try and agitate and derail it, that's simply not good for the American people and the Iraqi people."

He and Rep. David Bonior, D-Michigan, were interviewed on CNN. The congressmen, along with Rep. Mike Thompson, are urging Iraqi officials to avert war by allowing U.N. weapons inspections to return.

U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix began meetings Monday with Iraqi arms experts with the intention of paving the way for a resumption of arms inspections in Iraq.

McDermott said he trusts Blix "to be a fair, impartial and professional inspector. And if at 60 days, he comes back to the United States and says 'they wouldn't let me into this place, they wouldn't let me into that place' -- that's a new circumstance and at that point we'll make another decision."

He said the Bush administration is setting up a "self-fulfilling prophecy" that inspections won't work.

Bonior said Iraqis have reiterated the inspectors will have "unrestricted and unfettered" inspection opportunities.

He said the administration is "dooming" the process "before it ever happens, thus laying the pretext or the path for war." He stressed the "emphasis" should be placed on pursuing weapons inspections and letting the United Nations do its work.

When asked if he trusts Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Bonior said "the question is whether I trust impartial observers ... to make a good judgment."

Bonior said that for seven years, last decade,"thousands of inspectors went in they did a good job" and later "the process became politicized." Iraq has offered to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back in after a four-year absence, but announced Saturday that it would reject a resolution giving seven days to disarm.

McDermott was asked about Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott's comment that McDermott "should come home and keep his mouth shut" and criticism of his trip.

He urged President Bush and Lott to travel to Iraq to see what's going on.

'Dissent is an American right'

"I'm speaking for the peace process," McDermott said. Lott is "talking from absolute ignorance of what's going on on the ground. I think he ought to be a little more careful about what he says in a country where we value free speech. Dissent is an American right. Without it, it's not a democracy."

McDermott also said on ABC's This Week that "I think the president would mislead the American people" in order to bring about war with Iraq.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said she thinks any Congress member "has a right to disagree with the president" but said she is "very concerned when a member of Congress goes to Baghdad and talks against a United States president's administration and policies. I think that does cross the line."

She said the Congress members in Iraq are making the case that Iraq will be honest and provide full access to inspectors.

However, she said, "You read that the Iraqis are saying 'we're not going to change any rules,' which means 'we are not going to let you in the presidential palaces' and it is widely believed that that's where the weapons of mass destruction are, under the presidential palaces."

Hutchison supports a short time frame for inspections but warns of Iraqi delays.

She said her constituency thinks that if there are weapons of mass destruction "decisive action" needs to be taken.

Citing lessons learned from the September 11, 2001 attacks, Hutchison said, "We can't wait for someone to prove that they can do horrible things that we never imagined before."

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