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Powell: Iraq no distraction from al Qaeda hunt

Powell and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spoke to reporters outside the State Department Tuesday.
Powell and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spoke to reporters outside the State Department Tuesday.

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday the Bush administration can continue placing international pressure on Iraq despite an increase in attacks believed linked to al Qaeda.

Powell denied the administration's emphasis on Iraq in recent weeks has been a distraction from the war against al Qaeda, the terrorist group that attacked New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. He said Iraq is " very much a part of this overall campaign."

"We're going after those responsible for what happened in Bali, those who are responsible for 9/11 and those regimes that are supporting terrorists and developing weapons of mass destruction," Powell said after a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

"And that nexus between developing weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorist activities is focused in Iraq."

A weekend bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali that killed more than 180 people and a statement attributed to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden that praised earlier attacks in Kuwait and Yemen have raised new questions about whether the United States should consider simultaneous military action against Iraq and al Qaeda.

President Bush said Monday that U.S. forces have "plenty of capacity" to take on both Iraq and al Qaeda if necessary.

Straw also linked the need to address concerns over Iraq and the war against al Qaeda. "If you want a safer and more peaceful world, we have to address and deal with all three threats together," the British foreign secretary said.

Later, in a speech in Chicago, Illinois, Straw urged European governments to raise their defense spending in light of the new threats facing Western nations. (Full story)

U.S. dismisses Iraq vote

Saddam Hussein won another seven-year term as Iraq's president in a referendum in which he was the sole candidate. He won 100 percent of the vote, Saddam's right-hand man said Wednesday.

All 11,445,638 of the eligible voters cast ballots, said Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. (Full story)

In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer dismissed the Iraqi referendum.

"It is not a serious day, not a serious vote, and nobody places any credibility on it," he said.

U.N. diplomats debate proposed resolution

At the United Nations, U.S. and French diplomats met Monday night in hopes of resolving a deadlock over a new Security Council resolution.

The United States wants a single resolution demanding that Iraq comply with Security Council resolutions and allow unfettered access to U.N. weapons inspectors or face possible military action. But the French prefer a two-resolution approach: One would call for Iraqi compliance, and a second would call for international action if Iraq fails to comply.

Powell said the talks are "intense, but they are continuing."

"We continue to believe one resolution will suffice, but it's a process of consultation," he said, "and we are in close touch with other members of the Security Council."

Among the permanent Security Council members with veto power, Britain is the only nation publicly supporting the United States. In addition, one diplomat said, some of the nonpermanent council members fear that any unilateral action by the United States in Iraq would set a bad precedent.

-- CNN correspondents Jane Arraf, Richard Roth and John King contributed to this report.

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