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Top US General Not Speculating on Iraq Attack - 2002-04-11

The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East calls Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a long-standing threat to the international community. But Army four-star General Tommy Franks will not discuss possible plans for an attack on Iraq.

General Franks said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is what he calls a problem - not only for his own people but for the international community.

"Saddam Hussein has been a problem for his own people and has been a problem for the international community for a long time," he said.

But General Franks, speaking to reporters at Washington's Foreign Press Center, declines to speculate on possible military actions aimed at toppling the Iraqi leader.

He was asked about a broadcast report which said planning is well underway at the Pentagon for a possible U.S. military invasion of Iraq, perhaps by the end of this year. The report said the Pentagon is already establishing a second air combat command center in Qatar in the Persian Gulf to back up facilities now in Saudi Arabia.

It also said supplies, munitions and equipment are being moved to Qatar to prepare that facility and that General Franks will re-locate from his headquarters in the southern U.S. state of Florida to Qatar to run any war against Iraq.

General Franks disputes the report.

"I have not been asked to move my headquarters anywhere from Tampa, Florida," he said. "I believe that our President has not taken a decision and I think I am being perfectly honest and open in saying that so I really cannot say that the story was accurate if in fact the story suggested we intend an imminent attack in some other country." As commander of the U.S. Central Command, General Franks is in charge of American forces in the Middle East and South Asia, including Afghanistan.

He said U.S. operations in that country are proceeding well but he concedes it remains a dangerous place.