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U.S. warns potential enemies: Retaliation could include nukes

An official says the policy statement is part of President Bush's effort to deal with threats from rogue nations and terrorists alike.
An official says the policy statement is part of President Bush's effort to deal with threats from rogue nations and terrorists alike.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration is issuing a reminder of its policy that warns any nation using weapons of mass destruction against the United States or its allies that it will face massive retaliation, perhaps with nuclear weapons.

That policy is not new, but senior administration officials say they are laying it out for the first time formally in a strategy document on combating weapons of mass destruction.

It's a stern warning at a time when the prospect of war with Iraq has prompted fears that Saddam Hussein will unleash chemical or biological weapons on the United States or its allies.

"The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force -- including through resort to all of our options -- to the use of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies," the statement reads, in part.

"In addition to our conventional and nuclear response and defense capabilities, our overall deterrent posture against WMD threats is reinforced by effective intelligence, surveillance, and interdiction, and domestic law enforcement capabilities," the statement says.

A senior administration official says it is releasing this strategy statement Wednesday on Capitol Hill as part of a post-September 11 effort to deal with threats from rogue nations and terrorists alike.

"It's the first time you're seeing a complex strategy to deal with a complex threat," said a senior administration official.

"What we are talking about now is a different kind of deterrence, we're not deterring a single enemy," said the official.

The six-page document, dubbed "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction," is a joint report from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.

Although the report does not single out Iraq or any other country, it says some states that support terrorism already possess weapons of mass destruction.

"For them, these are not weapons of last resort, but militarily useful weapons of choice intended to overcome our nation's advantages in conventional forces and to deter us from responding to aggression against our friends and allies in regions of vital interest."

The strategy is comprised of three "pillars": counterproliferation, which includes deterrence with the threat of nuclear weapons; nonproliferation, which encourages arms control and reduction; and consequence management, which seeks to prepare the United States in the event of an attack using weapons of mass destruction.

The last such statement of U.S. policy was issued in 1993 but did not include an emphasis on non-proliferation or preparedness at home.

The document calls for improved intelligence collection and analysis, extensive research and development to create protection against weapons of mass destruction, and targeted strategies for each regime posing a threat.

A senior administration official says a few months ago, key government agencies were assigned practical tasks to carry out some of the policies. But the official would not elaborate on the classified directives, except to say they were "substantial."

Officials say President Bush will ask for money to fund the general recommendations in his 2004 budget request.

CNN White House Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report.

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