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Sunday, 8 September, 2002, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Powell admits US rift on Iraq
US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Powell is seen as a leading "dove"
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has admitted that differences remain within the Bush administration on what action to take against Iraq, despite calls by some "hawkish" members to launch an attack.


There is an imperative not to allow this regime... to continue to stick its finger in eye of the international community

Colin Powell
"The president has not decided to undertake military action," Mr Powell said in an interview for the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme, broadcast on Sunday.

Mr Bush's advisers, he said, "all have lots of views and we all communicate in different ways," adding that the president was examining all options - political, diplomatic, military.

Mr Powell said "when he [President Bush] has completed that examination it will be as a result of consultation with friends, consultation within his administration".

US Vice President Dick Cheney
Cheney has called for a pre-emptive strike
"The president will take the case to the public and to the international community."

Mr Powell described an Iraqi offer to allow United Nations weapons inspectors to return as a "first step", adding that Mr Bush "has been clear that he believes weapons inspectors should return".

Mr Powell's comments highlight sharp differences within the Bush administration on the Iraq issue, with US Vice President Dick Cheney rejecting the Baghdad offer as counterproductive.

'Imperative' to act

During the interview, Mr Powell said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was determined to acquire nuclear weapons and the US simply did not know how close Baghdad was to achieving that.

US President George W Bush
Bush is trying to make the case for Iraq action
Mr Powell said that "you can debate whether it is one year, five years, six years or nine years; the important point is that they are still committed to pursuing that technology".

However, he again stressed the importance of allowing UN inspectors to return to Iraq, after they were barred from the country in 1998.

"How much more they [Iraq] have done since 1998, what their inventories might be like now, this is what is not known and this is one of the reasons it would be useful to let the inspectors go in.

"They have to be able to go anywhere they need to, any time they need to, to see whatever they have to see to assure the world that these weapons are not there or are being brought under control."

Mr Powell refused to be drawn on Mr Cheney's call for a pre-emptive strike on Iraq but he conceded there was an imperative to do "something" with the Baghdad regime.

"There is an imperative not to allow this regime...which we characterise as evil...to continue to stick its finger in eye of the international community, to stick it finger in the eye of the civilised world".

Middle East woes

In the Breakfast with Frost interview, Mr Powell also addressed the Middle East conflict, saying the US regarded Yasser Arafat as the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people, but wished the Palestinians would find a new one.

President Bush has recently called for Mr Arafat to be replaced and has accused the Palestinian Authority of being involved in terror attacks against Israel.

Mr Powell said Mr Arafat was a failed leader who had not brought peace to his people.

"And we have not suggested to the Palestinian people that they overthrow him [Arafat] or to the Israelis that they send him into exile," Mr Powell said.

"We just believe that the situation would be improved and the plight of the Palestinian people would be dealt with in a more effective way with the emergence of new leaders."

Mr Powell also called on Israel to stop building settlements on the Palestinian territories, pull out of the West Banks and "ultimately end the occupation".


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07 Sep 02 | Middle East
06 Sep 02 | Middle East
06 Sep 02 | In Depth
04 Sep 02 | Middle East
05 Sep 02 | Americas
07 Sep 02 | Media reports
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