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Clinton hopes Saddam will 'come to his senses'

Former President Clinton said he sees a possibility that the international community will force Saddam Hussein to disarm.
Former President Clinton said he sees a possibility that the international community will force Saddam Hussein to disarm.

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Former President Bill Clinton talks to CNN's Larry King
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton said he hopes President Bush gets the support of the United Nations before undertaking any military action against Iraq, but he said international law doesn't require that he do so.

In an exclusive interview Thursday on CNN's "Larry King Live," the former president said he sees a good possibility that the international community will unite to force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to disarm.

"I still hope the United Nations can act together on this, and I still think there's a chance we can, and there's still a chance that Saddam Hussein will come to his senses and disarm," Clinton said.

He said Bush is "doing the right thing now" by gathering international support, but said he doesn't believe another U.N. resolution is needed to go to war with Iraq.

"As a matter of international law, I don't think it's required," Clinton said.

The former president said he believes Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose tenure as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff briefly overlapped Clinton's presidency, made a good case to the U.N. Security Council that Iraq is deceiving the world about what weapons it has.

"If that's true, it means Mr. Blix and his inspectors might never get to do the job they were appointed to do," Clinton said, referring to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix.

However, he said, there are more pressing issues for the United States, such as Osama bin Laden, his al Qaeda terrorist network and North Korea restarting its nuclear program.

Clinton said Pyongyang would have 100 nuclear weapons by now if his administration had not reached the Framework Agreement with North Korea in 1994.

Now, he said, the solution is to get the communist country's neighbors -- South Korea, Japan, China and Russia -- to join the United States in offering Pyongyang a deal if it agrees to end its nuclear program.

"We'll make sure you have enough food and energy and give you a non-aggression pact," he explained, adding that Bush's current tack of using diplomacy to defuse the situation is the right one.

But, he said, "You have to be firm in public and absolutely brutal in private. You cannot let them become a nuclear arsenal, because the pressure on them to sell these bombs will be overwhelming. They have no other way to make money."

Homeland security is a big issue for the nation now, too, Clinton said, and more money should be spent on protecting U.S. borders and ports.

Clinton, who is now gathering material to write his memoirs, said he doesn't regret not being president anymore, although he misses the work.

"I like having my life back," he said.

Regarding the space shuttle Columbia disaster last week, Clinton said it was he who gave the final approval for Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut to go into space, to join the Columbia crew.

"The day he went up, former Prime Minister (Ehud) Barak called and thanked me and reminded me that we had done this deal to allow this remarkable human being to go into space," he said.

Clinton said he watched CNN Saturday morning to follow the Columbia tragedy.

Despite the accident, he said, space travel will not be stopped.

"I believe in it. That, and the deepest depths of the oceans are our last great frontiers, and we've always been a questing people, and I still believe in it," Clinton said.


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