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Iraq Believed Discussed at Bush National Security Council Meeting - 2002-08-05


President Bush conferred with his national security team Monday, a meeting that is believed to have centered on Iraq. The general who is leading U.S. troops in Afghanistan was among those in attendance.

The White House is trying to downplay the significance of the meeting, calling it a routine session between the president and his national security advisors. But there are strong indications weighty matters related to Iraq were discussed.

Among those taking part in the discussions was General Tommy Franks who is overseeing U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. He would most likely play a key role should President Bush opt for an invasion of Iraq.

The president has made clear that many options are under consideration to deal with Iraq. He has said he will not rule anything out, including military action. But key congressmen who have been in touch with the White House believe no decision is imminent.

Meanwhile, Iraq has invited members of the U.S. Congress to Baghdad to tour suspected biological, chemical and nuclear weapons sites. Bush administration officials have dismissed the invitation, but acknowledge they cannot stop lawmakers who want to go.

A spokesman for the president's National Security Council said "there is no need for discussion." Sean McCormack said what is needed is for the regime in Iraq "to live up to its commitment to disarm."

He then went on to stress, once again, that the ultimate goal of international pressure on Iraq is the elimination of Baghdad's capability to get weapons of mass destruction.

Congress has been taking a close look in recent days at the prospects for U.S. military action against Iraq.

In a letter to lawmakers, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament said a congressional mission is welcome to come to Iraq. He said the delegation would have access to plants and installations allegedly producing, or intending to produce, biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

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