Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the threat to U.S. security posed by Iraq's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction is growing day by day.
Mr. Rumsfeld will not say if the Bush administration is considering a pre-emptive strike against Iraq as part of a new national security strategy.
But speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld suggests the United States may have no choice, and he cites the U.S. led military campaign against al-Qaida and the Taleban in Afghanistan as a precedent.
"There is no choice with terrorist acts other than to find them and that is exactly what we did in Afghanistan, if you think about it," he said. "You can call that defense, which I do, because it is the only way in the world to deal with that problem, or you can call it pre-emptive. It is what it is."
Mr. Rumsfeld says the threat posed by Iraq and its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction is growing.
"Every day that goes by, its development programs mature and to the extent they become more mature, the capabilities both for the weapons of mass destruction themselves as well as the ability to deliver them evolve as well," he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld's comments follow a published report that President Bush has directed the Central Intelligence Agency to make a comprehensive, covert plan to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The Washington Post reported Sunday Mr. Bush is considering the use of U.S. Special Forces and CIA teams like those operating in Afghanistan.