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Senator critical of slow debate on Iraq attack

Senator critical of slow debate on Iraq attack

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Republican senator who supports a U.S. attack on Iraq expressed frustration Sunday with the slow pace of the debate.

"We're talking this thing to death," said U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"I think [National Security Adviser] Condoleezza Rice is exactly right. We have a guy out there right now [Iraqi President Saddam Hussein] who's made his case," the Oklahoma lawmaker said. "He's kicked out our weapons inspectors that were there by virtue of U.N. resolution."

President Bush and Rice have said Iraq poses a danger to the United States and other nations because of its biological and chemical weapons, which it used against its own people and Iran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

In 1998, Iraq forced out U.N. inspectors sent to certify that the nation had no weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations has said that economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 will remain in place unless the inspectors can return and finish their job.

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But congressional leaders -- even fellow Republicans -- do not agree on the specifics of a strike against Iraq.

"The pace of progress is up to the president," U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, said on "Meet the Press." "Clearly, at this point we don't have the allies; we haven't figured out the money part of it, the bases, and I'm not certain we have the intelligence support that we need.

"So I don't think it's talking it to death," said Lugar, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "I think prudently we are setting the stage for success.

"Unless we plan this carefully, we're likely to destabilize other countries in the Middle East, create havoc in regard to the energy situation. ... There are other ramifications of this that do need sober analysis."

In addition, he said, the United States will have to be prepared to oversee Iraqi governance until new leadership is in place.

Dan Bartlett, Bush's communications director, said on ABC's "This Week" that the president was patient about the Iraq matter and would not make a decision without careful deliberations.

"He's been pleased with the debate, and how it's gone so far," Bartlett said. "He will continue to communicate his ideas on this."

Asked about Russia and Iraq planning to sign a five-year, $40 billion economic cooperation agreement, Lugar said Russia -- as a member of the U.N. Security Council -- is obligated to uphold sanctions against Iraq, which such a deal could violate.

Inhofe said that the United States shouldn't wait for a second tragedy given September 11.

"We have to exert leadership and quit worrying about who is going to join us," he said.

But retired U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the Persian Gulf War, warned that Iraq has a military force of 100,000 troops backed by good equipment.

"It's not going to be an easy battle," he told "Meet the Press." And it's crucial, he said, that the U.S. military have access to Saudi ports and unused airfields.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who served under President Richard Nixon, said a strike against Iraq is inevitable.

"I think the president [Bush] has made the intellectual case," Kissinger said. "The president has not yet created the political framework, but that has to be the next step."




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