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US Lawmakers Concerned About Bush's Plans for Post-Saddam Iraq - 2003-02-10

A U.S. Senate panel Tuesday holds a hearing on rebuilding Iraq after a possible U.S.-led war against that country. Lawmakers are concerned the Bush administration has not focused enough attention on the obligations of the United States and the international community after such a conflict.

As the Bush administration continues to make preparations for a possible war against Iraq to rid that country of weapons of mass destruction, lawmakers want to know what U.S. officials have planned after the conflict is over.

Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed his concerns in a recent appearance before reporters.

"The job will first be started when we take down Saddam Hussein, and defeat him, if need be. But it will not be finished until there is a stable Iraq, a stable Iraq, which is necessary to enhance our security and the security of the region," said Mr. Biden.

Mr. Biden has argued that tens of thousands of U.S. troops would occupy Iraq for years as part of the effort to rebuild the country, politically and structurally. He said the United States cannot bear that burden alone, and it should seek the commitment of other countries now to assist in the effort.

"The hard part begins after, after, after we defeat Saddam Hussein, if that proves to be necessary. For it promises to be a lengthy, and costly period of nation-building and occupation, hopefully not with merely U.S. forces. We want as many countries as possible helping us in this decade after Saddam falls. To get their help afterwards, we need to sign them up at the front end of this process," Mr. Biden said.

Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee, agrees. He made his comments on CNN's Late Edition Sunday.

"We talk very little about what happens in post-Saddam Hussein's Iraq. As powerful as America is, we cannot be the only nation in there helping rebuild Iraq," Mr. Hagel said.

A group of current and former U.S. officials will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday to respond to lawmakers' concerns.