Declaring Iraq is "lying" about not having weapons of mass destruction, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he hopes to see Iraqi President Saddam Hussein out of power by the time his tenure at the Pentagon ends. The Pentagon chief made the comments in Kuwait Monday, after talks with the emir that included discussion of the threat posed to the region by Baghdad.
A senior U.S. defense official says the Kuwaiti Government remains mindful of the Iraqi invasion, 12 years ago. But on Monday, Kuwaiti officials offered no public endorsement of the Bush Administration hopes of a leadership change in Baghdad. Before leaving Kuwait for Bahrain, Secretary Rumsfeld declined to say whether he received any such endorsement, in private.
At an Arab League summit in March, Iraq agreed to recognize Kuwaiti sovereignty and promised not to invade again. But when he was asked if all is now well between both countries, Mr. Rumsfeld warned that Iraq has a record of breaking promises and recommended Kuwait think twice before embracing its neighbor to the north. "If I were asked for my advice, it would be like the lion inviting the chicken into the embrace," he said. "What good, in the past, have the Iraqi representations of goodwill to their neighbors been? Precious little."
With thousands of American troops based in the region, he again refused to discuss any possible U.S. plans for military action against Iraq, but did say he would like to see President Saddam Hussein out of power before his term as defense secretary ends. The Bush Administration continues to suggest Iraq could become the next target in the war on terrorism, because of its alleged efforts to rebuild nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Secretary Rumsfeld warns that, if unchecked, the weapons will inevitably fall into the hands of terrorists. "They have them and they continue to develop them," he said. "They have weaponized chemical weapons. We know that. They have had an active program to develop nuclear weapons. It's also clear that they are actively developing biological weapons. I don't know what other kinds of weapons would fall under the rubric of weapons of mass destruction but if there are more, I suspect they're working on them as well."
From Bahrain, home port to the U.S. Navy's Fifth fleet, Secretary Rumsfeld goes on to Qatar and then to India and Pakistan, for negotiations on defusing tensions over Kashmir.