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Bush: Saddam Hussein Should Be Removed from Power - 2002-03-23

President Bush says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should be removed from power because he could help terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush says he has no imminent plans for military action against Iraq and is continuing to consult with allies over the terrorist threat.

Speaking to reporters at the end of a visit to Mexico, President Bush said the Iraqi leader must not be allowed to help terrorists acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. "He is a dangerous man who possesses the world's most dangerous weapons, and it is incumbent upon freedom-loving nations to hold him accountable, which is precisely what the United States of America will do," he said.

President Bush wants U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Iraq. He says the Iraqi leader's refusal to allow those inspectors shows he is still hiding weapons of mass destruction, weapons that could be used by terrorists to attack America and its allies. "A nightmare scenario, of course, would be if a terrorist organization such as al-Qaida were to link-up with a barbaric regime such as Iraq and thereby in essence possess weapons of mass destruction. We cannot allow that to happen," he said.

Vice President Dick Cheney discussed the situation in Iraq during his recent trip to the Middle East. Arab allies said they would oppose U.S. military action against the Iraqi leader and told Mr. Cheney they are more concerned about continuing Israeli - Palestinian violence.

President Bush said he would like to see Saddam Hussein driven from power, but he said U.S. officials are telling allies there are no imminent plans to remove him by force. "We have no imminent plans to use military operations," he said. "We will be deliberate. We will consult with our friends and allies. But we will deal with Saddam Hussein and he knows that."

Mr. Bush says Iraq is part of an axis of evil along with Iran and North Korea, that threatens world peace because they could help terrorists gain weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. State Department says it is still open to talks with Iran and North Korea but will have no dialogue with Iraq until it agrees to the return of U.N. weapons inspectors.