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Bush administration cool to Saddam speech

Senior aide: 'We've all seen it before'

From Kelly Wallace
Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration Thursday indicated it was not moved in any way by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's speech to his nation, with a senior aide summing up the U.S. reaction this way, "We've all seen it before."

"The regime in Baghdad knows what it has to do," the senior administration official told CNN. "It must live up to its obligations to disarm that it agreed to in 1991."

Those U.N. obligations, agreed to at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, called for Iraq ridding the country of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

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While the Iraqi leader's speech Thursday included plenty of saber-rattling, it did also include a reference to "dialogue" to resolve differences with the West.

"If they wanted peace and security for themselves and their people, then this is not the course to take," the Iraqi leader said. "The right course is of respect of security and rights of others through dealing with others in peace and establishing the obligations required by way of a dialogue on the basis of international law and international governance."

The Bush administration is not taking Hussein's comments very seriously. 'You have seen this before," the senior aide said.

Last week, the White House dismissed Iraq's invitation to U.N. weapons inspectors to come to Baghdad for talks, with administration officials saying it was time for "action" not "discussion."

The administration's goal continues to be "regime change," bringing about an end to Saddam Hussein's leadership.

Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech Wednesday, said he did not believe a return of U.N. weapons inspectors would resolve concerns about Iraq's ability to develop weapons of mass destruction.

"If left to his own devices, we believe he'll acquire nuclear weapons," Cheney told a group in San Francisco, California. "Sooner or later, the international community is going to have to deal with that."

President Bush has said he will use "all tools" at his disposal, but, according to aides, has not made a decision about what approach to take or whether to pursue a military attack.

But the Iraqi leader's invitation to weapons inspectors combined with his reference to "dialogue" could complicate U.S. efforts to convince already skeptical allies to support any military action.

"Saddam, at any point, could allow inspectors to come back and once he does, most of the world is not going to support any intended American war against Iraq, even if the inspections won't be that promising, even if they won't likely work," Michael O'Hanlon, a terrorism expert, told CNN. "The rest of the world will want to give them a chance, including the if Saddam lets these inspectors back in, I think we're in a bit of a pickle."




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