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WH cites comments on Iraq as 'constructive'

Some Republicans question strategy

WH cites comments on Iraq as 'constructive'

From John King
CNN Washington

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- President Bush views the caution many prominent Republicans have aired about the prospect of a military showdown with Iraq as a "constructive part of the process" in developing a consensus on what the United States should do to ensure that Saddam Hussein ultimately is removed from power, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Monday.

"Regime change is the stated bipartisan policy of our country, and the president is committed to it," Fleischer told reporters in Texas, where Bush is vacationing.

He said those urging Bush to adopt a go-slow approach do share the president's view of Hussein as "a menace," and that the president did not view their comments as criticism of his administration's policies

Fleischer said there could be some discussion of Iraq at a Wednesday meeting of Bush and his top national security advisers, but the overwhelming focus would be on military transformation and reform, including missile defense.

A similar session was held on the Bush ranch last summer, before the September 11 attacks. In the year since, the United States has withdrawn from the 1972 AntiBallistic Missile Treaty. Because of that, Fleischer said, the United States "is free to pursue in a more vigorous fashion, a more robust fashion" its goal of developing a missile defense system.

The treaty prohibited testing and deployment of many key components of a major missile defense system.

Last week, some leading Republicans, including Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft, warned of risks in launching a war against Iraq and urged more diplomatic efforts.

In an opinion piece published Friday in The Wall Street Journal Scowcroft, Bush's father's national security adviser, said attacking Iraq now would be a mistake.

Scowcroft warned "an attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counter-terrorist campaign we have undertaken." He said if the Iraqis are backed into a corner, they may attempt to use biological or chemical weapons in the hope of starting a war between Israel and the Arab states.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Kissinger, a former secretary of state, said "military intervention should be attempted only if we are willing to sustain such an effort for however long it is needed."




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