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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Iraq scorns US covert operations
Pro-Saddam rally in Baghdad
The US is considering ways to overthrow Saddam
Iraq has dismissed news that US President George Bush has authorised the CIA's use of covert operations against the Iraqi regime.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told reporters in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad: "It is not new... the United States has been conspiring against Iraq over the last 30 years."


We have heard a lot of such threats over the last 11 years

Naji Sabri, Iraqi foreign minister
US officials have confirmed a Washington Post report that Mr Bush had authorised operations to capture - or kill - Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Several senior US officials have publicly advocated the Iraqi leader's removal, amid speculation the United States is planning a military strike against Iraq.

Mr Sabri told a group of foreign journalists that "there is nothing new in that report, but US policy is trying to deceive world public opinion from time to time.

"We have been confronting US aggression and we have heard a lot of such threats over the last 11 years," he said.

Wider plan

Mr Bush signed a presidential order broadening the CIA's remit for overthrowing Saddam earlier this year, the Washington Post said.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri
Sabri denounced US "aggression"
It reportedly included the possible use of US special forces, such as those in Afghanistan, to try to capture the Iraqi leader, or kill him in self-defence.

The CIA has been banned by US law from assassinating political opponents abroad since the 1970s.

The order also allows for US agents to step up efforts to gain information from within the Iraqi Government, military and security services, according to the newspaper.

The Washington Post said the order was part of a wider programme by Mr Bush to bring down the Iraqi leadership, including by economic and military means.

Broad support

Both Republican and Democrat politicians in United States have welcomed the report.

Destroyed Iraqi rockets filled with the chemical Sarin
The US claims Iraq is developing deadly weapons

The newspaper's revelations 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.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Monday the Middle East and the rest of the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein.

Mr Rumsfeld said people did not want a country that developed weapons of mass destruction or threatened its neighbours.

He said Iraq's weapons programmes became more mature and dangerous "every day that goes by".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Childs
"The idea of unseating Saddam Hussein has won wide backing in Congress"
US former chief of mission to Iraq Edward Peck
"Who... has given the United States the right to decide who rules Iraq?"
Jack Spencer, The Heritage Foundation
"The US has been one of the most restrained powers in history"
Anthony Cordesman, Iraq analyst
"It could take a matter of years"

Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

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TALKING POINT
 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 | Middle East
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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