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Senator: North Korea a bigger threat than Iraq

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, was one of 23 Democratic senators who voted against a resolution granting President Bush the power to invade Iraq.
Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, was one of 23 Democratic senators who voted against a resolution granting President Bush the power to invade Iraq.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Sunday urged the Bush administration to rethink its focus on Iraq following North Korea's disclosure that it has reactivated its nuclear weapons program.

U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, said the Pyongyang government is believed already to have one or two nuclear weapons, has missiles capable of hitting targets 625 miles (1,000 kilometers) away and is working on a missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

In contrast, Iraq does not yet have a nuclear weapon and would have only limited means of delivering one, Graham said.

"If you put the two -- North Korea and Iraq -- on the scales and ask the question, 'Which today is the greatest threat to the people of the United States of America?' I would answer the question, 'North Korea.'

"And I think that needs to be part of the rebalancing of our foreign policy priorities," Graham said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer" on Sunday that Iraq's history makes the threat of U.S. military force necessary, while North Korea's interest in ending its economic isolation means diplomatic efforts are more likely to succeed.

U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, said both situations "require a very vigorous response."

"We have perhaps more promise of diplomacy working because of surrounding countries in North Korea, but potentially an even greater threat with their missile capability. So it's unfortunate both have come along at the same time, but we really can't pick and choose," said Lugar, an intelligence committee member who is considered an expert on nuclear nonproliferation issues.

News that North Korea has broken its 1994 agreement to abandon any nuclear ambitions came as the Bush administration faces a possible military confrontation with Iraq over U.N. resolutions requiring Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to give up weapons of mass destruction.

President Bush signed a congressional resolution last week authorizing him to commit U.S. troops to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions on disarmament.

Some Democrats have suggested the Bush administration withheld the news about North Korea while Congress debated the Iraq resolution, but Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that accusation was "an absolutely false charge."

Powell told ABC's "This Week" that some members of Congress received their first briefings on the issue in September when U.S. suspicions were mounting and that others began after Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly confronted North Korean officials with the evidence in early October.

"Congress has known this, members of Congress from both parties, both houses have known this since beginning, about the 10th of September," Powell said.

Graham said he did not think the Bush administration withheld information to influence the Iraq debate but said the White House has displayed a pattern of declassifying only information that is "most advantageous to the administration."

Graham, one of 23 Democrats who voted against the Iraq resolution, said he learned about North Korea's disclosure by reading the newspaper last week.

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