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Key Pentagon Advisor Richard Perle Resigns Post as Head of Defense Policy Panel - 2004-02-27

A Defense Department adviser who is considered a major force behind the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq has resigned from a Pentagon board he had served on for 17 years. Richard Perle announced his resignation in New York.

Mr. Perle says he quit the Defense Policy Board to avoid becoming a burden to the Bush administration during an election year.

He says U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld turned the Pentagon's advisory board into a high profile institution. As a result, the Bush administration is being asked publicly to support or disassociate itself from Mr. Perle's hard-line statements.

Mr. Perle made his remarks at a news conference in New York, but he submitted his resignation to Mr. Rumsfeld last week. "We are going into an election campaign and, as you will have noticed, I have said several things this morning that would not please the Administration," he said. "So I did not want to put them in a position that they felt they had to respond to the things I said by virtue of my membership on the Defense Policy Board."

Mr. Perle was the unpaid chairman of the Defense Policy Board for almost two years. In March of 2003, he resigned as chairman because of an investigation into whether he had failed to disclose ties with companies that did business with the Pentagon. He was cleared of any ethical breaches and remained a board member.

In his remarks in New York, Mr. Perle called for re-shaping the Central Intelligence Agency and the resignation of its director, George Tenet. He also said the State Department should take a firmer stance against critics of American policy.

Mr. Perle has also urged the United Nations to accept reforms to legitimize "preventive action" against terrorists in this post-September 11 world. At the news conference on Thursday, he said that if the world body does not go along with that proposal, the United States should consider leaving the organization.

"My own hope is we will see a reform of that system. If it can not be reformed we have to think about whether we want to remain part of it," he said.

On Iraq, Mr. Perle said the United States is making progress in targeting the perpetrators of violence and faults the media for not covering positive developments in the country. He also lashed out at France's President Jacques Chirac for trying to mobilize European countries against U.S. policy in Iraq.