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Debating Attack on Iraq - 2002-08-28

Debate continues over whether the United States should launch a military attack against Iraq, aimed at ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. World leaders and members of the U.S. congress have been disputing the possible initiative. VOA TV’s Deborah Block has our report.

As U.S. warnings about Iraq grow, President Bush met with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, to garner support for an American strike against Iraq. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer says the President tried to convince Prince Bandar that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is a threat to his neighbors, including Saudi Arabia.

“The President made it very clear again that he believes Saddam Hussein is a menace to world peace, to regional peace, and that the world and the region will be safer and better off without Saddam Hussein.”

But Saudi Arabia opposes any U.S. action and says the American military cannot use bases there to attack Iraq. Abdel al-Jubeir is a foreign policy advisor to Prince Bandar.

“The region currently is experiencing two wars, one in Afghanistan, and one between Israel and the Palestinians. The last thing it needs is a third war.”

Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak also expressed opposition to a U.S. strike against Iraq, predicting it would bring chaos to the Middle East. As President Bush makes his case against Iraq, he has indicated he will continue to consult American allies abroad. U.S. Senator Bob Graham, says that’s very important.

“I was recently in the Middle East and was stunned at the level of anti-Americanism that I heard from government officials and from people in the street. I believe that one of their concerns is that the U.S. is acting autonomously without consulting with the rest of the world, particularly with our allies.”

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney says inaction on Iraq could have devastating consequences.

“The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system and the demonstrated hostility of Saddam Hussein combine to produce an imperative for preemptive action.”

Some lawmakers, however, such as Senator Arlen Spector, are advising caution.

“I believe that before we act in a military way there has to be a clear and present danger.”

Although White House lawyers say President Bush does not need congressional approval to launch a military strike, American lawmakers are urging him to obtain congressional approval. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer says the President will continue to consult with Congress regarding future steps.

“The President knows that in a democracy it is vital to have the support of the public, if he reaches any points where he makes decisions about military action. he has not made those decisions at the time.”

Meanwhile, Baghdad is mounting a diplomatic campaign to try to head off possible American military action. Senior Iraqi ministers met with officials in China and Syria. China said it opposes the use of force against Iraq and called for a solution through the United Nations. And Qatar’s foreign minister, after a meeting with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, said his country is also against a U.S. military strike, adding his visit to Iraq was aimed at averting, what he called, a catastrophe.

Saddam Hussein says that any attack on his country is an attack on all Arab nations. He made the remark after U.S. and British planes hit air defense targets in the northern and southern no fly zones of Iraq. American officials says these are routine responses to what they called increased Iraqi threats to those aircraft. And they insist there is no connection to any future U.S. military strike against Iraq.