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White House Downplays Rumors of Imminent Attack on Iraq

The White House is downplaying a U.S. newspaper report that the Bush administration is planning a military strike against Iraq. However, President Bush has long said he wants Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein removed from power.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer downplayed the significance of a Pentagon report planning for an attack against Iraq. Mr. Fleischer says the military engages in what he calls "contingency planning of all types" around the world and dismissed speculation that the report is "significant."

He was responding to a story in Friday's New York Times newspaper that military planners have prepared a document calling for an invasion by tens of thousands of U.S. troops from the north, south and west of Iraq, backed by hundreds of aircraft based in as many as eight countries.

The newspaper quotes unnamed U.S. officials as saying the document is only preliminary and that none of the countries identified as possible staging areas has yet been consulted about the attack. President Bush has said he is willing to use force to prevent the Iraqi leader from helping terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction. But he has also said there are no "immediate" plans to attack Iraq.