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Monday, 26 August, 2002, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Bush 'free to attack Iraq'
Iraqi schoolboys practice firing assault rifles
Saddam Hussein says Iraq "will never surrender"
Lawyers in the White House have concluded that US President George W. Bush does not need the consent of the Congress to launch a military strike against Iraq.

US President George W. Bush
Bush says no decision has been taken yet
According to the Washington Post newspaper, the lawyers say the president's authority to act alone comes from his constitutional role as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

They also cite two congressional resolutions authorising the use of force.

The BBC's Alex Van Vell in Washington says this is a shrewd tactical move on the part of President Bush's advisers, which is seen as an attempt to avoid being subject to lawmaker's consent.

But the move comes as several prominent Republicans have warned of the dangers of a military strike on Iraq, amid signs of growing dissent on the issue within Mr Bush's party.

'Not legally bound'

White House officials said that the legal experts based their conclusion on three basic factors.

James Baker
Baker was a key player during the 1991 Gulf crisis

The officials said that under the US Constitution, the president is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

They also cited a 1991 congressional resolution authorising the use of force in the Persian Gulf, and a declaration on 14 September 2001 allowing the use of force against terrorism.

Although President Bush has repeatedly said he will consult lawmakers on the issue of attacking Iraq, experts say he does not want to be bound by them.

"The legal question and the practical question may be very different, " a Bush administration official told the Washington Post.

"There is a view that while there is not a legal necessity to seek anything further, as a matter of statesmanship and politics and practicality, it's necessary...to do it".

Republican divisions

On Sunday, the former US Secretary of State, James Baker, said it would be very risky and expensive to mount an invasion - especially if the White House decided to go it alone.

The former US National Security Adviser, Brent Scowcroft
Scowcroft said a strike on Iraq "could unleash an Armageddon in the Middle East".

"Although the United States could certainly succeed, we should try our best not to have to go it alone, and the president should reject the advice of those who counsel doing so," he wrote in the New York Times.

"The costs in all areas will be much greater, as will the political risks, both domestic and international, if we end up going it alone or with only one or two other countries," he said.

Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft warned that a strike on Iraq "could unleash an Armageddon in the Middle East".

Other Republicans who have voiced concern include former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Senator Chuck Hagel.

Experts say the regular talk from the Bush administration of the need for "regime change", even in the eyes of some Republicans, has fuelled the need for further debate.


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25 Aug 02 | Middle East
16 Aug 02 | Middle East
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24 Aug 02 | Middle East
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22 Aug 02 | Politics
21 Aug 02 | Americas
20 Aug 02 | Americas
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