Vice-President Dick Cheney has reaffirmed Washington's intention to block Iraq's efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction. During a nationally broadcast interview, Mr. Cheney discussed the security threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The vice-president told CNN's "Late Edition" that the problem is much bigger than Saddam Hussein's refusal to let in U.N. weapons inspectors.
"The issue is not inspectors," he said. "The issue is that he has chemical weapons and he has used them. The issue is that he is developing and has biological weapons. The issue is that he is pursuing nuclear weapons."
Mr. Cheney said that is the message he delivered to Arab leaders during his recent trip to the Middle East.
"He is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time and we think that is a cause for concern for us and for everybody in the region," he said. "And I found during the course of my travels that it is indeed a problem of great concern for our friends out there as well."
The vice president said there are no questions about where America stands, and no doubts about Washington's determination. He was asked if time is running out for Saddam Hussein.
"I can't make a prediction on something like that," he said. "He knows we are deadly serious. Our friends and allies in the region know we are deadly serious and that we do need to find a way to address this problem."
During Vice President Cheney's Middle East tour, several Arab leaders voiced opposition to any U.S. military operation against Iraq. They urged the Bush administration to focus instead on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mr. Cheney stressed that Washington is committing to tackling both issues. In his words: "we don't have a choice, we must do it all."