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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 02:35 GMT
US 'working to topple Saddam'
Colin Powell takes part in the MTV forum
Powell took questions from a young audience
US Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington is determined to see the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, removed from power.

Mr Powell told a global youth forum organised by the MTV television network that the Iraqi regime had to change or be changed.

We have a clear understanding of the despotic nature of this regime and we believe that the regime ought to change or ought to be changed

Colin Powell, US secretary of state
Mr Powell said while President Bush was working to achieve this by peaceful means, he was keeping all options open.

In a speech last month, Mr Bush referred to Iraq, North Korea and Iran as part of an "axis of evil" - a charge that sparked a hostile reaction from all three countries.

"We have a clear understanding of the despotic nature of this regime and we believe that the regime ought to change or ought to be changed," Mr Powell said.

"The president is working diplomatically toward that end, politically toward that end, but is also... preserving all his options," he said.

Saddam Hussein
The US does not rule out acting alone against Iraq

Mr Powell said US allies would be closely consulted before any action was taken against Iraq, but warned that America reserved the right to act alone.

"Hopefully, we can work with all of our friends in the international community but the president doesn't rule out the option of having to act alone if it becomes necessary," he said.

The Bush administration's bellicose stance against Iraq in recent days has raised concern amongst some of its allies in the Gulf, Middle East and Europe.

Attack 'must be justified'

Later on Thursday Mr Powell met with Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham who struck a note of caution:

"Nobody is supporting Saddam Hussein, but everyone recognises in international politics you have to have a process where, before you invade a sovereign country, there has to be a reason for it, or we are going to lead to international chaos," Mr Graham said.

Mr Graham said Canada did not yet believe there was a "clear and present danger" from Iraq.

"It is not there for the moment. One should not exaggerate the situation at the moment," he said.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the US had no reason to extend the war on terrorism to Iraq.

"We know which nations' representatives and citizens were fighting alongside the Taleban and where their activities were financed from - Iraq is not on this list," he said.

The BBC's Jon Leyne
"The secretary of state meets the MTV generation"
See also:

14 Feb 02 | Americas
US considers ousting Saddam
13 Feb 02 | Americas
Analysis: US to get tough on Iraq
06 Feb 02 | Americas
Powell steps up Iraq war talk
06 Feb 02 | Americas
Analysis: The 'axis of evil' debate
17 Jan 02 | Americas
Bush warns Iraq over arms
04 Jan 01 | Middle East
Saddam Hussein profile
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