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Bush administration presses action on Iraq

Blair says international support needed before strike

President Bush hosted British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Saturday for talks on Iraq.
President Bush hosted British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Saturday for talks on Iraq.  


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top Bush administration officials took to the airwaves Sunday to outline their support for a possible pre-emptive strike on Iraq as a way of ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Accusing Saddam of trying to develop nuclear weapons, Vice President Dick Cheney told NBC's "Meet the Press," "Increasingly, we believe that the United States may well become the target of those activities."

"The one choice we don't have is to do nothing," said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Not recognizing the seriousness of the problem is the one thing we can't do." (Full story)

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British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- Bush's staunchest international ally against Iraq -- said Sunday that the United States and Britain are determined to deal with Saddam but not without broad international support.

"I think what people have been worried about is: Are we simply going to go off without any consultation or discussion with allies? That is not the case," Blair told Sky News after returning home from the United States. (Full story)

Blair met Bush on Saturday at Camp David, Maryland, to set a joint strategy for building broad support for their view on Iraq. They argued ample evidence exists that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction.

But critics questioned that conclusion.

Both leaders Saturday cited a report indicating possible nuclear construction by Iraq. However, a spokesman for the international agency in charge of nuclear inspection denied there is a new report.

On Saturday morning, Blair said, "We only need look at the report from the International Atomic Energy Agency this morning, showing what has been going on at a former nuclear weapon site."

He said satellite pictures indicate new construction in Iraq at former nuclear weapon sites.

Blair said he had read about a number of attempts by Saddam to conceal weapons of mass destruction and concluded that he must act. "A policy of inaction is not a policy we can responsibly subscribe to," he said.

But Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, said there is no report and "no new information about any Iraqi nuclear activity."

Gwozdecky said the confusion was traced to an article Friday in The New York Times that quoted a nuclear inspector as saying satellite photographs show new construction in areas that inspectors identified as nuclear-related sites four years ago.

Those pictures, from commercial satellite imagery, may not mean anything, Gwozdecky added. "Until we get inspectors on the ground, we can't draw any conclusion about whether they are in compliance with the Security Council resolutions with regard to nuclear activities," he said.

Blair cites dossier of information on Iraqi threat

Blair described his talks Saturday with Bush as "excellent." He said the two leaders have a "shared determination" to deal with weapons of mass destruction.

In the next few weeks, he said, the leaders plan to release a dossier of information about the threat they believe exists in Iraq.

"I think what people will see when we publish this evidence that it's absolutely clear as to why weapons inspection and monitoring should take place -- and if it doesn't take place, then we're left with this threat simply growing," Blair said.

International support has not coalesced behind Bush's goal of removing Saddam from power. Blair acknowledged that some world leaders have raised "perfectly reasonable questions" about a possible attack against Iraq.

But Bush said Saturday he has support for his goal. "A lot of people understand that this man has defied every U.N. resolution," he said.

"A lot of people understand he holds weapons of mass destruction. A lot of people understand he has invaded two countries. A lot of people understand he's gassed his own people. A lot of people understand he is unstable."

Except for Israel and Britain, no other country has publicly committed support for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq.

Bush is expected to try to gain more international support in a speech Thursday to the U.N. General Assembly in which aides say he will issue an ultimatum to Saddam -- allow weapons inspectors unfettered access or face unspecified consequences. Aides said Bush plans to reiterate that Saddam is a global threat and has broken his nation's agreements with the United Nations.

The Bush administration also is reported to be crafting a resolution on Iraq with broad language it hopes the whole Security Council will support. Britain is the only permanent member of the Security Council to back Bush's position publicly.

Ex-weapons inspector: Bush 'has no credibility'

Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter told the Iraqi National Assembly on Sunday that his country, the United States, "seems to be on the verge of making a historical mistake" in its calls for ousting Saddam. (Full story)

In Baghdad as a private citizen to voice his criticism of the U.S. policy, Ritter said Iraq was not a threat to the United States.

"Iraq is not a sponsor of the kind of terror perpetrated against the United States on September 11 and in fact is active in suppressing the sort of fundamental extremism that characterizes those who attacked the United States on that horrible day," Ritter said.

In his address, Ritter denied Iraq possessed any weapons of mass destruction but acknowledged that concerns exist about Iraq's weapons programs.

On Saturday, Ritter said the Bush administration appears to be using the issue of weapons of mass destruction as an excuse to go to war.

"One of the problems with President Bush issuing that kind of ultimatum is that he has no credibility," Ritter said. "Members of his administration have said inspections don't matter.

"Members of his administration have said that, even if they get back in Iraq and succeed in disarming Iraq, that they're still going to seek regime removal."



 
 
 
 


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