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.
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."