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Fleischer clarifies 'one bullet' line

From Kelly Wallace (CNN Washington Bureau)

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White House Press Secretary Air Fleischer: 'No one would shed a tear' if the Iraqi people took the matter of Saddam into their own hands. (October 1)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House spokesman, after implying Tuesday that the United States advocated the assassination of Saddam Hussein by the Iraqi people, said later he was not making "a statement of policy."

Ari Fleischer told CNN he was making a "rhetorical point" on the cost of a possible war and his comments were not meant to send signals to the Iraqi people.

However, Fleischer said, "no one would shed a tear" if the Iraqi people took the matter of Saddam into their own hands.

The clarification came after Fleischer's afternoon briefing with reporters when he was asked about the possible cost of any war with Iraq. The Bush spokesman said the president has not made any decisions about military action so therefore it is "impossible to speculate" about costs.

However, he went on to say, "I can only say the cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than that. The cost of one bullet, the Iraqi people taking it (on) themselves, is substantially less than that, the cost of war is more than that."

Fleischer confirmed the administration would support any effort by the Iraqi people to send Saddam into exile. Asked if the White House advocated assassination by the Iraqi people as another alternative, the Bush spokesman said, "It's fair to say that the Iraqi regime is not satisfied with Saddam Hussein, that Saddam Hussein has created a great many enemies inside Iraq. And it is impossible to last forever as a brutal dictator who suppresses his own people, who tortures his own people, who deliberately brings women in public to be raped so it can be witnessed by their families."

"Regime change is the policy in whatever form it takes," Fleischer said when asked if the White House wanted to see Saddam dead.

When a reporter pressed one final time if Fleischer intended to advocate from the White House podium that an Iraqi should put a bullet in Saddam's head, the Bush spokesman said, "Regime change is welcome in whatever form it takes." And he repeated, "Regime change is welcome in whatever form it takes."

It would be an unusual move for the White House to actively advocate the assassination of another world leader by the people of that country.

The Bush spokesman, during his briefing, did stress that an executive order remains in effect, barring any U.S. official from participating in any assassination of a world leader.

In a phone call to CNN, Fleischer stressed that he was not intending to send a message to the Iraqi people and that it would be going too far to say he was advocating an assassination of Saddam by the Iraqis.

The Bush spokesman's comments come at a sensitive diplomatic time for the Bush administration, as it tries to gain support from skeptical U.S. allies, such as France and Russia, to support a tough new U.N. Security Council resolution and as it tries to win final language for a congressional resolution authorizing the president to use force against Saddam if necessary.

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