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Senator: Iraq would fight back, not start war

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- It's unlikely Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would use weapons of mass destruction against the United States unless his country were attacked, a leading U.S. senator on defense policy said Saturday.

"If he initiated their use, it would lead to his own destruction," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, told CNN's "Novak Hunt & Shields."

"If he loves himself more than he hates us and hates Israel, then he would probably not initiate their use," said Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Investigations Subcommittee. "But there is no doubt that if we attacked him, he would use every weapon of mass destruction that he has."

'Novak, Hunt & Shields'  airs at 5:30 p.m. ET on CNN.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held two days of hearings last week to debate the Iraqi threat and what action, including possible military action, should be taken against the country.

Levin said he would support a U.S. war against Iraq if it were determined that Hussein had a role in the September 11 attacks or if he uses weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological or nuclear.

Levin said a full-scale war would require at least 250,000 American troops, adding that President Bush should seek congressional support for such an action.

Levin was asked whether a U.S. attack would be a "cakewalk," a term used by a former administration official.

"I think it would be a mistake to think it might be a cakewalk," he said. "And our top military people, our senior military leaders, know it would not be one. They advise caution. And I think it's something the president will seriously consider."

Iraq delivered a letter Thursday to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix suggesting talks on the possible resumption of weapons inspections.

The United Nations has cautiously welcomed Iraq's offer, but U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that Iraq's agenda was at odds with Security Council resolutions demanding unrestricted access for weapons inspectors.

Inspectors have not been in Iraq since December 1998, when they left in advance of U.S.-British bombing.

Their charge was to certify that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or the means to deliver them, before the United Nations would lift economic sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The restrictions remain in place.

"I don't think we should be naive about him or what his intentions are or what kind of evil person he is," Levin said of the Iraqi leader. "We should not be naive about that at all. He could manipulate the inspections. I don't think he's likely to open up his country to full inspections," he said.

The fact that Iraq has requested talks on arms inspections shouldn't affect any U.S. decision for military action, the senator said.

Too many other issues, including the enforcement of no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq to protect the Kurds and the Shiite Muslims, need to be considered, Levin said.

The senator was asked how he rates U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"I give him basically good grades," he said."I think he's done very well, particularly since 9/11. He's been a very effective communicator, very direct."




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