Secretary of State Colin Powell told members of Congress Wednesday there must be a change of regimes in Iraq and said the United States might have to act unilaterally to bring it about.
Mr. Powell, in some of the administration's toughest language to date, says President Bush is examining a full range of options for dealing with Saddam Hussein and his defiance of demands to allow the return of U.N. weapons inspectors.
Appearing before the House International Relations Committee, the Secretary of State said the United States will work with other countries to get the inspectors back into Iraq but would be ready to act on its own if necessary, to bring about a change of government. "Regime change is something the United States might have to do alone. How to do it? I would not like to go into any of the details of the options that are being looked at," he said. "But It is the most serious assessment of options that one might imagine. And he's leaving no stone unturned as to what we might do."
The Secretary of State said the United States is "convinced" Saddam Hussein is seeking a nuclear weapon but that U.S. intelligence estimates are that -- in the absence of outside help -- he will not be able to do that within the next year or so and would probably take much longer than that. He said the return of inspectors, with unfettered access in Iraq, might not end the Iraqi leader's drive for nuclear weapons but would make the effort much more difficult.
In an appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA Director George Tenet said Saddam Hussein has in recent weeks launched a "diplomatic charm offensive" to make it appear that Baghdad is becoming more flexible on U.N. inspections and sanctions.
Mr. Tenet also said the Iraqi leader is trying to undermine support for U.N. sanctions by drawing neighboring states into economically-dependent relationships.
The CIA chief said Saddam Hussein is using the profits to reward key supporters and fund his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. "His calculus" Mr. Tenet said "is never about bettering or helping the Iraqi people."