Two key members of the U.S. Senate say they believe Washington will eventually have to take action against Iraq. They agree with Secretary of State Colin Powell who told lawmakers a "regime change" is needed in Baghdad.
The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee predicts the United States will have to take on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein at some point.
During an appearance on the NBC television program Meet the Press, Florida Democrat Bob Graham said he understands the need for action, noting that Iraq is not letting in U.N. weapons inspectors. But he said for the time being, the United States should stay focused on Afghanistan and tracking down terrorist cells. "Yes, Saddam Hussein is a bad, evil force," Mr. Graham acknowledged. "Yes, he should be taken out at some point. My question is: Is this the time to do it? Shouldn't we be focusing on completing the war on terrorism?"
The top Republican on the committee, Alabama's Richard Shelby, told Meet the Press he thinks action against Iraq is possible within months, not years. He feels it is unlikely Baghdad will ever let arms inspectors back in. "I do not believe they will change their spots," he said. "I think ultimately we will be confronted with these people, probably in some kind of war."
In his State of the Union Address last month, President Bush referred to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an "axis of evil." He said they seek weapons of mass destruction that could end up in the hands of terrorists or be used to blackmail the United States.
Another prominent senator, Connecticut Democrat Joseph Lieberman, told the Fox television network that he agrees all three countries are evil. But during an interview on the Fox News Sunday program, he said it is not wise to treat them as a group. "And I do think there are different gradations in what we should do with the three of them," he emphasized. "I think North Korea is subject to diplomatic progress. I think the Iranians need us to be very tough. And I think Saddam Hussein cannot remain in power."
A few minutes later, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister appeared on the Fox broadcast. Zavad Zarif said President Bush's comments about his country were seen as an insult. He strongly denied recent U.S. allegations regarding Iran, and insisted that no one in the government was involved in the recent attempt to smuggle a boatload of arms to the Palestinians. "I can tell you categorically," he stated, "that all segments of the Iranian government - and I mean total government, not simply President Khatami's administration - have had nothing to do with the sending of arms to Mr. Yasser Arafat or to the Palestinians."
The Iranian official also denied Iran is sending forces to Afghanistan or providing shelter for Taleban and al-Qaida fighters.