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Cheney: 'Survival of civilization' at stake

Reiterates U.S. reserves right to act unilaterally against Iraq

Cheney: 'Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary.'
Cheney: 'Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary.'

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
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ARLINGTON, Virginia (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney reiterated Thursday that the United States reserves the right to act unilaterally against Iraq, and said that U.S. efforts against terrorism could affect the "survival of civilization itself."

"As the president said the other night, the course of this nation does not depend upon the decisions of others," Cheney said to applause from delegates to the 30th annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

"Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, we will defend the freedom and the security of the American people."

Confronting the "outlaw" regime in Iraq is "not a distraction from the war on terror, it is absolutely crucial to winning the war on terror," Cheney said. "We will not permit a brutal dictator with ties to terrorists and a record of reckless aggression to dominate the Middle East and to threaten the United States of America."

Next Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell is to present "information and intelligence" to the U.N. Security Council about Iraq's "ongoing defiance," Cheney said.

"Our purpose is not simply to follow a process, it is to end the terrorist threats of the civilized world," he said. "We are defending both ourselves and the safety and survival of civilization itself."

Referring to U.S.-led efforts against terrorism, he said, "Wherever terrorists operate, we will find them, wherever they dwell, we will hunt them down."

In defiance of a number of U.N. resolutions demanding it disarm, Iraq has continued to pursue biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, he said.

Cheney ridiculed the declaration presented by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to the United Nations, in which he said Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. The declaration "clearly demonstrated that Saddam has absolutely no intention of complying with the world's demands," he said.

Challenges Iraq declaration

He challenged Iraq's contention that its weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed.

"Saddam Hussein has never accounted for, nor destroyed, these instruments of terror, and his desire for nuclear weapons remains undiminished," said the vice president, who celebrated his 62nd birthday Thursday.

Saddam's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction poses "a grave danger, not only to his neighbors, but also to us," he said. Cheney accused Iraq of protecting terrorists, "including al Qaeda."

Critics have said the administration has failed to back up its claims with evidence.

Cheney also reiterated Bush's call for "reform" of the legal system and for research into hydrogen-powered cars to clean the air and make the country less dependent on foreign sources of oil.

And he told his conservative audience he would "encourage the compassionate work of faith-based and community groups all across the country" and work to pass a law against human cloning and against the late-term abortion procedure referred to by opponents as "partial-birth abortion."

To get the country's economy back on its feet, Cheney urged that tax cuts scheduled to take effect in 2006 be made effective immediately, a step Bush has proposed.

Since Bush took office, the nation's surplus has been replaced by a ballooning deficit and the unemployment ranks have swelled. Further tax cuts "will help create more jobs and, ultimately, tax revenues for the government," Cheney said.

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