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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 21:18 GMT 22:18 UK
US consults exiles on ousting Saddam
Saddam Hussein
Saddam says attacks on Iraq are doomed to failure
The leaders of the six main Iraqi opposition groups are beginning talks in Washington to discuss ways of bringing down President Saddam Hussein.

They are meeting senior US defence and State Department officials to look at scenarios for toppling Saddam and the subsequent political framework of Iraq.


Our message is that the military, the Republican Guard, and the Iraqi people are all willing to take on Saddam

Sharif Ali bin Hussein, INC Spokesman

The talks came as US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the policy of containing Saddam Hussein had failed to stop him developing weapons of mass destruction.

"There is no way any reasonable person could look at that record and say it has worked," he said. "It hasn't worked and it is not working."

Mr Rumsfeld's comments came after a senior Republican congressman said that America should not attack Iraq as long as Saddam Hussein remains within his own borders.

Dick Armey, the majority leader of the House of Representatives and a senior member of President Bush's Republican Party, warned against any action without what he called "proper provocation".

He said that Iraq's refusal to allow in UN weapons inspectors was not a good enough reason.

Change in policy

The Washington meeting is the first time that US President George W Bush has invited the leaders of all the groups for talks together.

The BBC's Jon Leyne, in Washington, says it marks a significant change in policy as in the past the US has had doubts about the Iraqi opposition's credibility.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld says containment has not worked
In a further endorsement, US Vice-President Dick Cheney is due to address the Iraqi National Congress (INC) representatives by video link on Saturday.

Speaking before Friday's meeting, a senior Iraqi representative said the opposition was united and ready.

INC spokesman Sharif Ali bin Hussein told the BBC that extended military action against Saddam will not be needed because his army will not fight.

He said many commanders in the Republican Guard had indicated that they would not fight.

Pro-Saddam rally in Baghdad
Saddam urged Iraqis to be prepared
"This was put to the test in 1991 where hardly any units fought against the allied troops," he said.

The INC has called on the US to adopt a targeted approach to toppling the Iraqi leader.

"Our message is that the military, the Republican Guard, and the Iraqi people are all willing to take on Saddam," Mr Hussein said.

In any attack, US forces should concentrate on Saddam Hussein's command and control, as well as Saddam himself and his colleagues, rather than massively targeting military objectives and Iraq's infrastructure, he added.

Speech dismissed

The United States dismissed a speech by Saddam in which he said that any attack on his country would be doomed to failure.

In his first public remarks since President Bush vowed last month to see him replaced, Saddam said that "evil people" who threatened Arab and Muslim countries would be left "in the dustbin of history".

The televised address came amid growing speculation that the US is planning to attack Iraq over its failure to readmit United Nations weapons monitors, who have been barred from the country since 1998.

US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the speech was "bluster" which showed "no intention to live up to its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Leyne
"The American's are eager to listen to their message"
The BBC's Duncan Hewitt
"Here in Washington, they know that they have to persuade allies"
Dr Ahmad Chalabi, Iraqi National Congress
"The Iraqi opposition has been united for a long time"

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See also:

08 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
09 Aug 02 | Middle East
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