|Bush seeks return
of U.N. inspections
in Iraq, Powell says
Secretary’s comment suggests administration’s policy still in flux
MSNBC NEWS SERVICES
|U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the BBC that President Bush supports the return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq.|
|Sept. 1 — U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Sunday that Washington wanted the “first step” toward solving the Iraq crisis to be the return of weapons inspectors to assess President Saddam Hussein’s arms capability. The comment highlighted a division within the U.S. Administration over its Iraq policy. On two occasions last week, Vice President Dick Cheney suggested there was no point in sending back the U.N. inspectors and hammered home his case for pre-emptive action against Baghdad.|
| SPEAKING IN an interview
recorded for BBC television, Powell said President Bush “has
been clear that he believes weapons inspectors should return.”
The full interview is scheduled to be broadcast next Sunday, Sept. 8.
“Iraq has been in violation of these many U.N. resolutions for most of the last 11 or so years,” he said. “So, as a first step, let’s see what the inspectors find, send them back in.”
Powell also said he understood that the international community needed more information about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein before it decide on what should be done.
“I think that the world has to be presented with the information, with the intelligence that is available,” he said. “A debate is needed within the international community so that everybody can make a judgment about this.”
Powell appeared to side with Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who last week insisted that weapons inspections were the priority of London’s policy on Iraq, not the “regime change” in Baghdad called for by Bush and Cheney.
On Thursday, the vice president noted that Saddam had “made a science of deceiving” past inspectors trying to verify that he had destroyed weapons of mass destruction.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is trying to tread a path between the two — insisted that some action must be taken against Iraq, but refusing to specify what that should be.
Blair said on Saturday that the world could not stand by and allow Iraq to develop weapons of mass destruction in “flagrant breach” of United Nations resolutions.
He said “doing nothing about Iraq’s breach of these UN resolutions is not an option” but insisted no decisions had been made about what action should be taken.
Opposition Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith warned Blair against prevaricating on the issue of Iraq and accused him of allowing the debate on support for U.S.-led military action to “drift.”
Writing in the London Sunday Times, Duncan Smith called for pre-emptive action against Iraq, saying Britain was at high risk from future missile attacks by Saddam Hussein.
“We can choose to act pre-emptively or we can prevaricate. Intervening in Iraq is not about doing the right thing in the United States, it is about doing the right thing for Britain,” he said.
British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon will meet Rumsfeld for talks during a six-day trip to the United States this month.
Talks are expected to center on Iraq, but the British ministry said only that the two men would discuss “matters of mutual interest.”
DOLE WEIGHS IN
In an interview with the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa, U.S. Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman said Bush had not yet decided how to topple Saddam Hussein’s government.
“President Bush has said on a number of occasions that he is a patient man, that he wants to consult with his friends, allies and Congress,” Grossman said.
“The President has not yet reached a decision on the way to overthrow Saddam Hussein. He will listen to his allies.” Meantime, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole stepped into the debate by urging Bush to seek congressional approval for any plan to topple Saddam Hussein.
In an op-ed piece published in The Washington Post, Dole agreed with Bush’s assessment that the Iraqi leader poses an imminent threat that demands immediate attention.
“Iraq is like a runaway freight train loaded with explosives barreling toward us. We can act to derail it or wait for the crash and deal with the resulting damage,” Dole wrote.
In another development, Time magazine reported Monday that Powell plans to step down at the end of President George W. Bush’s current term in 2005.
The magazine quoted sources close to Powell as saying that he has a firm plan for an exit after serving out the entire term.
“He will have done a yeoman’s job of contributing over the four year,” a close aide was quoted as saying. “but that’s enough.”
The aide stressed that Powell was determined to serve out the entire term, even if the United States launches an invasion of Iraq.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.