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US Lawmakers Say Powell Speech 'Strong', But Some Still Hesitant On War - 2003-02-05

U.S. lawmakers say Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations was detailed and powerful in its revelations about Iraq's attempts to mislead the world about its weapons programs. But some are urging the United States to seek a second U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing force to disarm Iraq.

Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says Mr. Powell "powerfully and irrefutably" made the case that Iraq is deceiving the world about its weapons programs:

"The evidence he produced confirms what I believe and I have known for some time now. Saddam Hussein continues to attempt to maintain and garner additional weapons of mass destruction, and he continues the flout the world's command, through the United Nations, to disarm," he said.

However, Mr. Biden says while it is not legally required to do so, the United States should seek a second U.N. Security Council resolution setting a deadline for Iraqi compliance, before any U.S-led military action takes place.

Senator Edward Kennedy, a key opponent of any war with Iraq, describes Secretary Powell's speech as "strong". However, Senator Kennedy says the speech "didn't tell us anything we didn't already know", and urges the President to make a direct case to the American people.

"I would hope that prior to the time that the President is going to engage American troops, that he would come to the American people and explain what the entrance strategy is into Iraq, and the exit strategy," he said. "Whether he believes as a result of the commitment of those troops that we are going to be a safer nation, safer from the dangers of al-Qaida, and safe with the real dangers that exist in North Korea, and that we will not see an expansion and explosion of recruits for al-Qaida as a result of this action."

Senator Kennedy says he does not believe Secretary Powell made the case for Iraqi connections with the al-Qaida terrorist organization, a comment echoed by another prominent Democrat, Russ Feingold.

Senator Joseph Lieberman urged President Bush to lay out specifics of U.S. plans for a post-Saddam Iraq. But he said members of Congress who voted for the Iraq resolution last October should "unite" behind President Bush.

In the House of Representatives, some Democrats remained unpersuaded by the Powell presentation, and renewed a call for President Bush to return to Congress for a new vote before any military action begins.

Congressman Peter DeFazio said the administration's case has been about "no one thing consistently and no one thing at least for this member of Congress convincingly that poses an immediate threat to the citizens of the United States such that we would launch a preemptive war against Iraq with potentially catastrophic repercussions in that region and throughout the world."

However, Republican Congressman Nick Smith says the Powell speech should leave no doubts about what needs to be done. "One item after another, to me presenting a compelling argument that there is no question Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, number two has been developing weapons of mass destruction," he said.

The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi said Secretary Powell reiterated the "strong and well-known case" for disarming Iraq, but said all alternatives should be exhausted before resorting to military action.