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Clinton: Iraq must comply 'one way or the other'


GOP leaders say any strike should remove Hussein

February 4, 1998
Web posted at: 9:23 p.m. EST (0223 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bill Clinton said Wednesday that while the United States still prefers a diplomatic solution to the current standoff with Iraq, "one way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction."

"That is our bottom line," Clinton said, while attending a White House event on education.

Meanwhile, two top Republicans said they believe any military action against Iraq should result in the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power.

U.S. leaders comment on the situation in Iraq
President Bill Clinton
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Defense Secretary William Cohen
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House Speaker Newt Gingrich
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"We should do everything we can to get this resolved and find a way to have him removed from office, one way or the other," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich went further, saying the world's leaders must avoid "incremental timidity" that will only leave Hussein in place and stronger.

"My hope is that military planning will be designed to coerce him or replace him and will not simply punish him and leave him in charge of building the weapons," Gingrich said. "That's not a victory. That's a defeat."

But Defense Secretary William Cohen, in an interview with CNN's Judy Woodruff, said the goal of any military strike would be to "degrade" Hussein's capability of producing weapons of mass destruction.

"It is not our goal to remove Saddam Hussein," Cohen said. He also said any military action would involve air strikes and that the United States has no plans to introduce ground troops into Iraq.

Rubin: Standing firm 'necessity'

American officials have called Iraq's latest offer to allow limited inspections of eight disputed sites unacceptable, saying that United Nations inspectors must be given unfettered access to all potential weapons sites.

But officials indicated that the latest Iraqi offer may show that Baghdad is getting the message that its current refusal to allow unfettered inspections is untenable.

The Iraqi offer "shows the necessity of standing firm," said State Department spokesman James Rubin. "It shows the necessity of our determination and our united resolve that the Iraqi regime comply fully and unconditionally with the requirements of the U.N. Security Council."

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright personally briefed Clinton and his national security team at the White House after completing a six-day tour of European and Middle Eastern capitals to drum up support for possible military action.

Clinton said he was "encouraged" by the fact that Albright found a "strong consensus" in support of the U.S. position that Iraqi must give unconditional access to U.N. weapons inspectors.

Cohen going to Middle East

The Pentagon also announced Wednesday that Cohen will visit six Persian Gulf states next week.

William Cohen
William Cohen  

"We all prefer a diplomatic solution, but there's the possibility of some other approach, and he has things to talk about with our friends in the region," a senior Pentagon official told reporters.

Cohen told CNN that in the wake of Albright's mission, "We believe ... that we will have the support of our allies to carry out whatever mission we think is necessary. And so we're satisfied that we have enough support and can do the job."

Meanwhile, the White House Wednesday sought to downplay reports that any military action had been ruled out during the Winter Olympics, which start this weekend in Nagano, Japan.

A White House official said planning for military action was intensifying "without respect to timelines, deadlines or dates."

The International Olympic Committee requested that the United States hold off on military action during the Winter Olympics.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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