Rumsfeld not 
mincing words
By Wolf Blitzer
CNN Wolf Blitzer Reports
   
Washington (CNN) -- President Bush has invited the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives to the White House Wednesday. Congressional sources say a possible war with Iraq will be on the agenda. The process of consultation will formally begin.
At a Pentagon briefing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld came out swinging -- denying reports of serious divisions over Iraq within the Bush administration.  "That is baloney!"

He also minced no words in warning that the Iraqis had been a lot closer to building a nuclear bomb just before the Persian Gulf War than anyone had suspected, and that the same could be true right now.  "To the extent they have kept their nuclear scientists together and working on these efforts, one has to assume they've not been playing tiddly-winks and that they've been focusing on nuclear weapons."

Rumsfeld's latest blast followed a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, between U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
 
Aziz said his government was ready to consider the return of U.N. weapons inspectors but he attached several conditions, including an end to international sanctions, an end to the U.S. and British-manned no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq, and an end to the talk of war coming from Washington.  "So if you want to find a solution, you have to find a solution to all these matters."
<<Insincere Arab Bastards - make a deal - then years later offer 10 cents on the dollar! -a-j/D >>

Kofi Annan was cautious in assessing the meeting.  "At this stage, I cannot say that they have taken the decision to allow the inspectors.  I mean they have questions."

But U.S. officials suggest those Iraqi conditions effectively kill the possibility of resuming weapons inspections.  "I have not seen an inclination on their part to agree to anything except as a ploy from time to time to mull over the possibility.  We might do this or do that," Rumsfeld said.  "They keep playing the international community and the U.N. process like a guitar, plucking the right string at the right moment to delay something."

The Bush administration did receive some badly needed international backing -- after days of being pounded around the world.  British Prime Minister Tony Blair offered this assessment:  "If the 11th of September teaches us anything, it teaches us the importance of not waiting for a threat to materialize."