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Israel Urges US to Take Action Against Saddam - 2002-08-16

Israel is urging the United States to move swiftly and decisively against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, saying that delay will only give him more time to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent a message to Washington this past week, telling the Bush Administration that any delay in dealing with Saddam Hussein will only give him more time to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Sharon spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said Israeli intelligence officials believe the Iraqi leader is stepping up efforts to produce biological and chemical weapons.

In an interview with the American cable television network, CNN, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres had much the same message. Mr. Peres said a military operation against Saddam Hussein will be dangerous, but he said it would be more dangerous to postpone such action.

President Bush has labeled Iraq part of an "axis of evil," a rogue state intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction and thus posing a threat to the United States and its allies. Mr. Bush has since made it increasingly clear that he wants to see a change of government in Baghdad. The president says he has not decided on any specific course of action or timetable.

There is also considerable international opposition to any possible American military action against Baghdad. But, there is still increasing speculation that an American military strike against Iraq might come soon.

Israeli officials have long said they see Saddam Hussein as a threat. They are also concerned what might happen if the United States does attack Iraq.

During the 1991 Gulf War when a U.S. led international coalition drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, Iraq launched several dozen Scud missiles against Israel, causing extensive damage, but few casualties. At American urging, Israel did not respond.

Israelis now fear that if attacked again, Saddam Hussein might launch missiles armed with chemical and biological weapons. Israeli military officials have said recently that this time Israel would respond to such any such attack.