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Members of Congress Meet with White House on Iraq - 2002-09-04

U.S. Congressional leaders are welcoming consultations with the Bush administration on U.S. policy toward Iraq. President Bush invited bipartisan House and Senate leaders to the White House Wednesday, while Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill in closed session.

After weeks of pressing the White House to consult with them on the possibility of a U.S. invasion of Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, lawmakers received the pledge they sought from President Bush.

Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott told reporters such action could come soon. "At the appropriate time, this administration will go to the Congress to seek approval necessary to deal with the threat," he said. "The president did not specify exactly when that would occur, but he did indicate it could come even before we adjourn for the fall in the next four or five weeks.

Mr. Bush accuses Saddam Hussein of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and says the Iraqi leader is a threat to U.S. and regional interests. While the president has made clear he favors a regime change in Baghdad, he says he has made no decisions on whether to pursue military action against Iraq.

Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle says the president has yet to make the case for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Mr. Daschle has a series of questions he wants answered before he votes on any resolution authorizing military action against Iraq.

"What new information exists? What threat can be quantified?" he asked. "What has changed in recent months or years? What will be the reaction of our allies? How much will it cost? If we change regimes, who will be in the new regime and has that been thought through?"

Another Democrat, Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, is a vocal opponent of war in Iraq and believes Saddam Hussein does not pose a threat.

At a news conference, Mr. Kucinich cited comments from former U.N. arms inspector Scott Ritter, who argues that Iraq has been fundamentally disarmed and does not pose a threat outside its borders. Mr. Kucinich, who did not attend the White House meeting, says the Bush administration has yet to persuade him otherwise.

Meanwhile, a coalition of anti-war groups are organizing rallies in Washington and San Francisco on October 26 aimed at mobilizing public support against any military action against Iraq.