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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
CIA told to get Saddam
US President George W Bush
President Bush: Serious about Saddam

American politicians of both main parties have welcomed reports that President Bush has authorised the CIA to undertake covert operations in Iraq.

These would include attempts to try to capture Iraq President Saddam Hussein.

The revelations in the Washington Post newspaper were confirmed by senior Democrat Congressman Dick Gephardt, who said he had been briefed by the White House on the plans and he thought they were a good idea.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein's Iraq is part of Bush's "axis of evil"
Whatever misgivings European leaders might have, there is no sense here that the President has overstepped the mark.

What the CIA has been given permission to do, according to the Washington Post, is pursue covert operations in Iraq using small teams of special forces soldiers working as they do in Afghanistan.

The teams would try to capture Saddam and would be allowed to kill him in self-defence.

The CIA apparently believe the action would be a preparation for a more conventional military attack but a CIA source is quoted by the paper as saying "hopes are high and we could get lucky".

Diplomatic fallout

The Washington Post said the presidential order was signed earlier this year.

The newspaper says the operations are seen by CIA insiders as preparations for a full-scale military attack.

These reports appear to confirm that President Bush is still serious about ousting Saddam Hussein.

It was reported earlier this year that the Pentagon was worried about the number of US troops that would be involved and was advising caution.

There is also some concern about the diplomatic fallout, particularly among America's European allies, most of whom would see any military action in Iraq as extremely unwise.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Justin Webb reports from Washington
"There are a number of hurdles to be jumped before this comes about"

Key stories

Analysis

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 VOTE RESULTS
Is the US right to target Saddam?

Yes
 48.06% 

No
 51.94% 

6404 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

17 Jun 02 | Americas
07 Jun 02 | Middle East
24 May 02 | Americas
23 May 02 | Europe
29 Apr 02 | Middle East
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