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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK
Iraq war talk stepped up
President George W. Bush
President Bush 'wants Saddam Hussein gone'
The West is moving towards a war with Iraq despite there being no evidence that Saddam Hussein presents a threat to the rest of the world, a former UN weapons inspector has warned.

Scott Ritter says military forces are already being deployed for a conflict which will be a small flame to the conflagration that will engulf the entire Middle East.


We are moving towards war - there are military forces deploying

Scott Ritter
He made the prediction as a group of Iraqi dissidents gather in London to discuss how to keep the country together if Saddam is toppled.

But Baroness Williams, Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords, warned the West against "sleep walking" into military action.

She questioned the justification for putting the lives of thousands of British and American soldiers and Iraqi civilians at risk.

'Decisive action'

Mr Ritter, a weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998, said US President George Bush had made his mind up that "he wants Saddam Hussein gone".

"He is dead serious about this. There is no debate," he told Channel 4 News.

Scott Ritter
Ritter: War against Iraq will engulf the Middle East
"We are moving towards war. There are military forces deploying and I believe there will be a war unless there is some sort of debate.

"What shape the war takes in terms of 50,000 (men and women), 200,000, I don't know.

"But I can tell you this - it will be decisive. It will be aimed at removing Saddam Hussein.

Weapons

"And unless there is an end game, the war will be a small flame to the conflagration that is going to engulf the entire region."

Mr Ritter urged the US not to go to war "over speculation" that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a claim made by Dr Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the opposition group, Iraqi National Congress.

"There has to be substantive facts and so far no-one has presented those facts and therefore there is no case that Iraq represents a threat to the US or anybody else."


We will be able to topple the regime

Brigadier General Najib Al-Salhi
Lady Williams agreed. "Have we any justification for putting the lives at risk - and there will be thousands of lives, both of our own men and American men and women and also, of course, Iraqi civilians - unless we have clear evidence that Iraq presents a threat to the rest of the world?

"That evidence is not clear."

Seeking help

Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have warned that invading Iraq will destabilise the region, she told Channel 4 News.

But Brigadier General Najib Al-Salhi, of the Officers Freedom Movement - a possible successor to Saddam Hussein - insisted that with US help, the dictator could be disposed of.

Brig Gen Al-Salhi, who is joining the three-day opposition conference at Kensington Town Hall on Friday, said: "We will be able to topple the regime, provided the Americans give us the logistics and the military equipment.

Saddam Hussein
An invasion would be aimed at 'removing' Saddam Hussein
"This is the purpose of our meeting. We are seeking help, however, we don't want the Americans to go in without us," he told Channel 4.

Dr Ahmed Chalabi said the Iraqi leader was the "most experienced and oldest terrorist" and the US believed he was a threat to its national security.

'Zero life expectancy'

"He has weapons of mass destruction, a lethal combination that the president cannot tolerate and has decided that Saddam has to go," he told Channel 4.

But Mr Ritter argued that Dr Chalabi's group was not a "real opposition" like the Northern Alliance and would have "zero life expectancy" in Iraq if it was installed in the country after Saddam was toppled.

"This is not something the US can build around...

"The opposition is merely a political foil used by those in Washington DC who are trying to foist the war on the American people for their own ideological reasons.

"There is no viable opposition and ... once Saddam is removed - if he is removed through military action - anybody who meets in Kensington will have a zero future in Iraq."


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See also:

17 Jun 02 | Americas
17 Jun 02 | Middle East
07 Jun 02 | Middle East
07 Mar 02 | Middle East
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