- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2002

President Bush labeled Saddam Hussein "an enemy" yesterday and said the United States owes it to posterity "to free the world of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of those," such as the Iraqi dictator, "who hate freedom."
Also yesterday, leaders of six Iraqi opposition groups met at the White House to discuss plans for overthrowing Saddam with top administration officials, including Vice President Richard B. Cheney, who attended by videoconference from his Wyoming home.
"We are very optimistic that [U.S. officials] will do something to effect regime change," said Sharif Ali of the Iraqi National Conference, after spending two hours at the White House in face-to-face meetings with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"We are working with them to facilitate that because ultimately the U.S. did agree with us that it was up to the Iraqi people," he added.
Mr. Rumsfeld, who both Friday and yesterday met with the Iraqis who want to remove Saddam from power, is recognized as one of the Bush administration's strongest proponents of military action to replace Saddam with a democratic government. The Washington Times reported last week that all Joint Chiefs members who had been more wary now support such action to eliminate Saddam.
Speaking before a round of golf at the Ridgewood Country Club in Waco, Texas, yesterday, Mr. Bush told reporters that he believes Americans understand the need to overthrow Saddam.
"I want people to fully understand our deep concern about this man, his regime," Mr. Bush said. "As I said, I have no timetable. But I do believe the American people understand that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of leaders such as Saddam Hussein are very dangerous for us and our allies."
"They understand the concept of blackmail and that when we speak of making the world more safe, we do so not only in the concept of terrorist groups, but of nations that have proven themselves to be bad neighbors and bad actors," said the president, who is vacationing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Mr. Bush said Saddam has a "history of tyranny" and that "most people understand he is a danger."
Reminding reporters of his State of the Union speech in January, the president said, "I described them as the axis of evil once. I describe them as the enemy until proven otherwise."
Iraq "obviously desires weapons of mass destruction, and I assume that [Saddam] still views us as the enemy," Mr. Bush said.
He reaffirmed that he has no time frame for deciding on a military strike against Iraq or "for any of our policies regarding Iraq." He said he spends much time discussing U.S. options with his top policy advisers.
Pressed on whether he will make a determination this year, Mr. Bush said, "Not necessarily."
But "we owe it to our children's children to free the world of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of those who hate freedom," the president said.
U.S. military officials say Saddam clearly has chemical and biological weapons at his disposal and that he is pursuing nuclear weapons.
In addition to the Iraqi National Congress, other Iraqi opposition groups that were part of the talks in Washington were the Iraqi National Accord, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Constitutional Monarchy Movement.
Speculation has been rampant among lawmakers and potential lawmakers about a U.S. strike against Iraq.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, has warned against an unprovoked attack, saying such U.S. action would not be backed by any "other nation-state."
Elizabeth Dole, a Republican and former transportation andlabor secretary who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat from North Carolina being vacated by Republican Jesse Helms, was asked about the concerns being raised by Mr. Armey and other "thoughtful Republicans with second thoughts about invading" Iraq.
"Do you have second thoughts about whether it's wise to invade right now?" co-host Robert Novak asked Mrs. Dole on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields" yesterday.
She responded without hesitation. "No, I have great confidence in the president and his team," she said.
"I think the president is looking at all options, and that's exactly the way to proceed. Meeting with opposition leaders, economic, diplomatic, any other alternatives. But military has to be one of those possible alternatives."
This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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