Powell Says Bush Has Seen No Plans to Attack Iraq

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
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  • Date: Fri, 8 Mar 2002 08:03:02 -0000

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush will not have received any plans
to attack Iraq when British Prime Minister Tony Blair visits Washington
in the next few weeks, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday.

Powell, speaking in the House of Representatives Budget Committee, was
responding to British press reports that the aim of Blair's visit, from
April 5 to 7, would be to agree on a common plan for attacking Iraq. 

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"It certainly isn't my understanding of the purpose of their meeting,"
Powell said. 

"I am sure they will discuss many things but there are no plans to
finalize because the president has no plans on his desk and I don't know
of any plans that would be on his desk at the time that Prime Minister
Blair visits," he added. 

In January Bush called Iraq, Iran and North Korea an "axis of evil" and
U.S. officials have said they are considering options for "regime
change" in Iraq -- the euphemism for overthrowing Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein by force. 

Powell repeated the U.S. position that it does not intend to attack Iran
or North Korea, and that calling them evil was just an objective
description of their governments. 

"There is no war which is about to break out with any one of these three
countries," he said. 

In the case of Iraq, he noted that U.N. resolutions require the Baghdad
government to let in weapons inspectors to check the country for
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. 

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri
in New York on Thursday to discuss the U.N. demand that the inspectors
go back. 

The United Nations pulled the inspectors out in 1998 in advance of a
bombing campaign by the United States. Iraq then refused to let them
back, on the grounds that some of them were spies picking targets for
the U.S. military. 

Powell said: "We're not going to trust them (the Iraqis). They agreed to
have inspectors come and verify this. They agreed to this 10 years
ago... Let the inspectors in." 


"As a separate matter, the United States believes Iraq would be better
off with a different regime and we're examining options as to whether or
not this can be accomplished through the use of opposition elements, and
the president has other options available to him," he added. 

The United Nations described the start of the talks with the Iraqis as
"positive and constructive" but gave no details as to whether weapons
inspectors would be allowed to return. 

On Iran, Powell said Bush had "stirred up" the internal debate between
hard-liners and reformers by including the country in his "axis of

Analysts say Bush's remarks in January enraged Iranians of all political
hues and undercut those seeking detente with the United States. 

Powell said: "The president is following very closely this debate that
is taking place within Iran between the moderate elements that tend to
support President (Mohammad) Khatami and the radical elements which tend
to support the supreme leader, Mr. (Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei." 

"The president stirred it up a bit by saying 'It's time for you to make
a choice. Which world do you want to be in?"' 

Source:  Reuters

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