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End Iraq threat now, Pentagon official says

Wolfowitz told CNN that Iraq is among countries trying to develop weapons that "would make September 11 pale by comparison."  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One of the Pentagon's leading advocates of toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein said Saturday that quick action was needed to limit Hussein's ability to threaten the region and Americans.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told CNN's "Novak, Hunt and Shields" that President Bush has not made a decision about military action against Iraq. He said Bush is keeping all of his options, including diplomacy, on the table, but called Hussein a "very dangerous man" who poses a threat to the United States.

"We have to do something about it," Wolfowitz said. "Exactly what we do, I think, is something that we've got to work with the American people, we've got to consult with our allies. What we can't do is just wait another 10, 20 years and hope that nothing happens."

Wolfowitz said Iraq is among countries trying to develop weapons of mass destruction that "would make September 11 pale by comparison."

Cheney arrives in Saudi Arabia 

The United States has promised a diplomatic confrontation with Iraq, which has prevented U.N. weapons inspectors from returning to certify the country has no weapons of mass destruction. Iraq expelled U.N. inspectors in 1998.

Wolfowitz said the Bush administration would prefer to find a diplomatic solution to the Iraq issue, but Hussein "has shown great resistance to accepting any reasonable outcomes."

In his State of the Union address, Bush named Iraq, Iran and North Korea part of an "axis of evil" bent on developing chemical, nuclear or biological weapons.

Vice President Dick Cheney is currently visiting Middle Eastern leaders to discuss a potential U.S. campaign against Iraq, but Iraq's neighbors are reluctant to endorse any military action.

Cheney met Saturday with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah, who was expected to once again discourage any possible U.S. attack on Iraq. Abdullah said Friday that any effort to overthrow Hussein would only raise animosity in the region against the United States.

The Pentagon also is considering reclassifying a Navy pilot shot down over Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf war from missing in action to a prisoner of war. Wolfowitz said U.S. intelligence has "pretty hard evidence" that Cmdr. Michael Speicher survived the crash of his F/A-18 Hornet on the first night of the conflict.

Pentagon officials said there is no credible evidence to suggest that Speicher is still alive, but reclassifying him as a POW would put more pressure on Iraq to account for him, sources said.

After the war, Iraq provided a small amount of human remains it said were those of an American pilot, but tests showed they were not Speicher's. His status was changed from killed in action to missing in action in January 2001.




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