Archive for Sunday, September 8, 2002

Views within administration on Iraq vary, Powell says

September 8, 2002


— Members of the Bush administration differ about what action to take against Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and no decision has been made on a military strike, Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview to be broadcast today.

"The president has not decided to undertake military action," Powell said, according to a transcript of the interview for the British Broadcasting Corp.'s "Breakfast with Frost" program. President Bush, Powell said, "is examining all our options political, diplomatic, military."

In the transcript, released by the BBC ahead of today's broadcast, Powell said the president's advisers "all have lots of views and we all communicate in different ways." He said members of the administration "have full, open debate without pulling our punches."

Another exchange between David Frost and Powell, shown by the BBC last week, appeared to highlight sharp differences within the Bush administration over how to deal with the Iraq crisis.

In it Powell said the United States should seek a return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq before taking any further steps days after Vice President Dick Cheney had said resuming inspections could be counterproductive.

"The president has been clear that he believes weapons inspectors should return," Powell told the BBC.

"Iraq has been in violation of these many U.N. resolutions for most of the last 11 or so years. So as a first step, let's see what the inspectors find, send them back in, why are they being kept out."

The excerpt was played last week to promote today's interview, but the comments do not appear in the transcript released by the BBC.

In the transcript, Powell said Saddam was determined to acquire nuclear weapons but that the United States did not know how close he was to his goal.

Powell said, "you can debate whether it is one year, five years, six years or nine years; the important point is that they are still committed to pursuing that technology."

However, he said, Saddam was militarily much weaker than before the Gulf War in 1991. Powell estimated that "the Iraqi army is perhaps at one-third or a little better than one-third of its capability of 12 years ago. It is not the same force."

In a separate interview published Saturday in the French daily Le Monde, Powell said the world community should be "outraged" by Saddam's violations of U.N. resolutions.

"The United Nations, the international community, every European nation should be outraged," he said, according to a French translation.

Addressing opposition from U.S. allies especially France, Germany and Russia to a strike against Iraq without U.N. backing, Powell said: "That we disagree is not a disaster."

In an interview published today, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice warned that a failure to deal with Iraq would have serious consequences for countries other than America.

"We now know what happens when evil people have the means to attack you and are determined to do it," she was quoted as saying in Britain's Sunday Times. "(The next target) wouldn't have to be New York or Washington. It could indeed be London or Berlin."

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