- The Washington Times - Monday, February 3, 2003

Iraq is not considering the possibility of Saddam Hussein's going into political exile to avoid war with the United States, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations said yesterday in a television interview.
"We're an independent state. We intend to preserve that independence. We're proud of our government," Mohammed al-Douri said on "Fox News Sunday."
Asked if that means Saddam will not abdicate power in order to prevent a military attack, the ambassador said, "This is not a question in Iraq. Never have we had such a question in the past, and we will never have such a question in the future."
On a more encouraging note, Mr. al-Douri told Fox News that Iraq is not opposed to overflights of its territory by U.S.-piloted U2 spy planes under the aegis of the United Nations. "We have no objections with that at all," the Iraqi ambassador said.
On Friday, Iraq ruled out for safety reasons any U.N. spy planes flying over that country, while U.S. and British planes continue patrolling no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq.
"There are some technical questions that have to be resolved. But there is no problem with that at all," Mr. al-Douri told Tony Snow, host of "Fox News Sunday."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell will appear Wednesday before the U.N. Security Council to present Washington's case that Saddam is still hiding weapons of mass destruction and has links to al-Qaeda terrorists.
Mr. Powell will be making his speech as the United States has deployed nearly 90,000 military personnel in the Persian Gulf region to prepare for war with Iraq because of its failure to disarm. The number of U.S. troops could soon double.
Both Mr. Powell and President Bush made it clear last week they would support Saddam's exile, which they indicated would be necessary to avoid a war, unless he fully disarms. Iraq insists it has no weapons of mass destruction.
"Hopefully, the pressure of the free world will convince Mr. Saddam Hussein to relinquish power," Mr. Bush said Thursday, adding: "And should he choose to leave the country. along with a lot of the other henchmen who have tortured the Iraqi people, we would welcome that of course."
For weeks, Mr. Powell has made known the president's interest in having the Iraqi dictator leave Baghdad, so that a more democratic regime one that does not develop and collect weapons of mass destruction can govern Iraq. Last week, Mr. Powell said the United States could play a role in finding a country of exile.
"If he were to leave the country and take some of his family members with him and others in the elite who have been responsible for so much trouble during the course of his regime, we would, I am sure, try to find a place for them to go," the secretary told reporters.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who is considered one of the most hawkish officials in the Bush administration, said recently he would be "delighted" if an exile deal for Iraq's "senior leadership … and their families" averted a war.
U.N. weapons inspectors say that they left undestroyed 6,500 chemical bombs that contained 100,000 tons of chemical agents before being kicked out of Iraq in 1998.
The inspectors are to present a report to the Security Council Feb. 14 detailing Iraq's compliance with a U.N. resolution that requires complete disarmament.

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