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Cheney Briefs Senators on Weapons of Mass Destruction - 2002-09-05


Senior Bush administration officials led by Vice President Dick Cheney have met at the Pentagon with a large group of Senators to discuss the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was not the focus but it did come up.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says the meeting was not focused on any one country and that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld specifically pointed out it was not a briefing on Iraq.

But Ms. Clarke acknowledges that during what she characterizes as a comprehensive discussion on the nature of the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, Baghdad's weapons program did come up. She gave no details.

The seriousness of the meeting was underscored by the fact that in addition to Mr. Rumsfeld and 25 Senators, Vice President Dick Cheney and Central Intelligence Director George Tenet attended along with the Chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers.

The meeting follows comments by President Bush labeling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a serious threat and a significant problem. Mr. Bush says it is an issue the United States "must" deal with.

Administration officials are hinting they have secret new information about Iraq's efforts to develop and deploy chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. They have promised close consultation with Congress before undertaking any military action.

The latest meeting follows a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill Wednesday in which Mr. Rumsfeld met with some 70 Senators to discuss the latest developments in the war on terrorism.

It also comes just hours after another U.S. led coalition air strike against Iraqi air defenses in the southern no-fly zone imposed after the 1991 Gulf War.

A statement issued by the U.S. military's Central Command says the attack near Iraq's border with Jordan was in response to unspecified Iraqi hostile activities aimed at coalition aircraft.

It is the ninth such strike since August 5.

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