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Clinton on Iraq

By Judy Woodruff
CNN Washington Bureau

Former President Clinton
Former President Clinton

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former President Clinton thinks U.N. weapons inspectors should be given "a little more time" in Iraq, an assessment that runs counter to the Bush administration's belief that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is playing games and more inspections would be futile.

Clinton shared his thoughts with me as he visited Washington to launch what will be an annual presidential symposium at Georgetown University, his alma mater.

The former president, talkative and relaxed, was careful to couch his views on Iraq with some words of support for the Bush administration.

"Maybe in the end, the rest of the world just has no will to carry out the U.N.'s decision that's 12 years old now that he has to be disarmed," Clinton said. "But we don't know yet know that, and I always tell people, when you got the only real super military in the world, you can kill people next week or the week after that, or the week after that, but you can't bring them back. So I don't see that it hurts our country any to give Mr. (Hans) Blix a little more time if that's what he wants."

Clinton argued that giving more time to the U.N. process could help facilitate international support. "If we let Hans Blix do his job, we can convince the rest of the world that we, that the president was serious when he and Secretary Powell went to the U.N., that we honored the resolution of the U.N., that we've bent over backwards," he said.

Clinton said Bush doesn't need another U.N. resolution to move ahead with military action.

"I do not believe as a matter of law, international law, that President Bush is required to go back to the United Nations and get another resolution because there have been several resolutions since 1981 saying he would disarm ."

But, Clinton added, "Now, just because he doesn't have to go back militarily doesn't mean he shouldn't do it politically."

I asked Clinton, who is actively involved in a wide range of causes such as AIDS research and prevention, economic empowerment, and education and citizen service, about concerns from close advisers that he's spread so thin he may not be effective as a former president. He dismissed the idea.

"First of all, I think all former presidents should continue public service in some way, based on their physical and mental ability to do it, and their other interests," Clinton stated.

Clinton pointed out there are some limitations on his post-presidential activities. "For example, I'm still widely interested in the Middle East, but I can't have an impact there. I mean, I do what I can privately, but I can't really have an official impact. "

Clinton said he did tend to take on too much, but rejected suggestions that he wasn't disciplined in his post-presidential career. "I'm satisfied that after 10 or 20 years I'll feel pretty good about what we do," he said.

Tune into Inside Politics on Wednesday for the rest of my interview with Clinton; he responds to critics who say he didn't do enough for AIDS during his time in office and comments on Bush's views on affirmative action.

Judy Woodruff is CNN's prime anchor and senior correspondent. She also anchors "Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics," weekdays at 3:30 pm ET.

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