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Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 02:28 GMT 03:28 UK
US 'wants democracy in Iraq'
Iraqi troops
The opposition says the Iraqi army is demoralised
The US Government wants democracy established in Iraq once President Saddam Hussein has been ousted, Iraqi opposition leaders say.


They would not support replacing one dictator with another

Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein

One of the Iraqi exiles holding talks in Washington said the administration had made it clear that it would not support another dictatorship.

He was speaking after discussions with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld.

US President George W Bush, for his part, has emphasised his commitment to ousting Saddam Hussein, describing him as "an enemy until proven otherwise".

Saturday saw six exiled opposition groups visit the White House to spend 30 minutes in a video conference with Mr Cheney, who is on holiday in Wyoming, as well as Mr Rumsfeld and senior officials.

The Iraqi groups met Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday.

Internal rows

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Washington says the talks are part of a deliberate attempt to show that the Bush administration has resolved its own bitter internal arguments about how seriously to take the Iraqi opposition.

Poster of Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein has vowed to resist any attack
Many Washington officials have in the past dismissed it as divided and ineffective.

Speaking after the meeting, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress (INC) - an umbrella group of exiles - said Mr Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were already looking beyond Saddam's overthrow.

"[They said] they support a democratic regime in Iraq, that they would not support replacing one dictator with another," Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein told reporters in Washington after the talks.

"Their vision for Iraq was for a free Iraq that was democratic and liberalised," he said.

Growing doubts

Before the meeting, Mr Bush emphasised his commitment to ousting Saddam Hussein, describing him as "an enemy until proven otherwise".

President George W Bush
Bush: "Deep concerns"

At the same time, he denied there was any "imminent war plan", saying he had no timetable for regime change in Iraq.

Mr Bush - who is on holiday in Texas - said he welcomed the public debate on a possible military campaign, which has seen the political establishment expressing growing doubts about the wisdom of an assault on Baghdad.

"The consultation process is a positive part of really allowing people to fully understand our deep concerns about this man and his regime and his desires to have weapons of mass destruction," Mr Bush told reporters.

"I do believe what the American people understand is that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of leaders such as Saddam Hussein are very dangerous for ourselves.

"They obviously desire weapons of mass destruction. I presume that he [Saddam Hussein] still views us as an enemy."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Leyne
"This is the first time in years the six Iraqi opposition groups have gathered together"
President George W Bush
"Most people understand that he [Saddam Hussein] is a danger"
Sharif Ali Bin Al Hussein, Iraqi opposition group
"We were heartened by what we heard"
Danish journalist Thomas Buch Andersen
"There's a kind of resignation among the Iraqi people"

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