- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

Key senators yesterday expressed support for a plan to get U.N. approval for forcing weapons inspections on Iraq before taking military action against Saddam Hussein.

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, and Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat and chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, both spoke favorably yesterday on CBS "Face the Nation" of seeking the U.N. Security Councils adoption of a resolution "requiring that Iraq submit to intrusive inspections anytime, anywhere with no exceptions, and authorizing all necessary means to enforce it."

The proposal was offered by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III in an opinion piece published yesterday in the New York Times.

"Seeking new authorization now is necessary, politically and practically, and will help build international support" for an invasion of Iraq if Saddam fails to let the weapons inspectors back in, wrote Mr. Baker, who served in the administration of the first President George Bush and was the current presidents victorious ground commander in the Florida recount wars.

"The beauty about what former Secretary Baker said is this: Saddam Hussein has already committed himself to inspections by the United Nations, and hes thumbed his nose at the U.N. So that going into the U.N. on that one aspect and saying, 'Provide force to do these inspections, if [Saddam] continues to stonewall us, I think is a very sound idea," Mr. Specter said.

Mr. Graham agreed.

"By going to the United Nations, making the request, even if it results in Iraq stonewalling a U.N. proposal for intrusive inspections, it would move us into the high moral ground in appealing to our allies for their collaboration and gaining the support of the world for whatever form of action we end up taking against Iraq," he said.

Asked about the result of an Iraqi rejection, Mr. Graham said, "It would be a significant part of building the case that Iraq must be doing something which is going to be of danger to its neighbors and to the world, or they would not be acting in a way contrary to world opinion."

On NBCs "Meet the Press," Hans Blix, chief U.N. weapons inspector, expressed doubts about the benefit of such a resolution and whether Saddams earlier evasions have sapped the will of the Security Council to pass such a measure.

"The current resolution, from 1999, orders Iraq to accept inspections. They have not done so, so they are not in compliance. And, it is natural, therefore, that the question is raised whether another resolution should manifest the decision and the determination of the Security Council to have Iraq accept inspections," he said.

Like Mr. Graham, Mr. Specter says he believes the Baker plan would be useful, whether Iraq allows inspections or not.

"If Saddam turns them down, and we really confront our allies, saying, 'Lets enforce compliance, use the force necessary and he still resists, then the common-sense inference is that he has something to hide," Mr. Specter said on CBS.

The White House stopped short of wholeheartedly endorsing the columns proposal, but said it contained nothing that contradicted the presidents policy.

"The president welcomes the views of people with experience," Deputy White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told The Washington Times, adding that Mr. Bakers column was not submitted to the White House beforehand.

Mr. McClellan also said that Mr. Bakers call for consultation among allies is something President Bush has espoused all along.

In his New York Times piece, Mr. Baker said military action against Iraq would be necessary and did not question either the need to overthrow Saddam or eliminate his weapons of mass destruction.

"The issue is not whether to use military force to achieve this, but how to go about it," he wrote.

"The only realistic way to effect regime change in Iraq is through the application of military force, including sufficient ground troops to occupy the country (including Baghdad), depose the current leadership and install a successor government," Mr. Baker wrote.

But he cautioned that "unless we do it the right way, there will be costs to other American foreign policy interests," namely relationships with Arab and European countries, "and perhaps even to our top foreign policy priority, the war on terrorism."

Mr. Baker, as well as the senators who endorsed his plan on talk shows yesterday, says he believes his strategy could help build public support for military action against Iraq.

Early in the year, when Mr. Bush first proposed the option, polls found that 65 percent to 80 percent of Americans would back using military force to topple Saddam.

A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, disclosed yesterday on CNNs "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," found that 20 percent of Americans would support attacking Iraq if the United States did so without support from any allies. If the United States had to go it alone, 75 percent of respondents said they would oppose an invasion.

"There has to be public support for anything which is done," Mr. Specter said on CBS. "We learned a bitter lesson from Vietnam" that its vital to have "the public behind a war effort."

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, who last week offered strong support for a military attack, said he thinks its important that Americans who agree with him start letting it be known.

"I hope Americans all over the country will start speaking out in support of President Bush," he said on "Fox News Sunday." Mr. DeLay said he also "hopes to make other members [of Congress] understand how important this is and how important it is to support the president."

Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, interviewed on CNNs "Late Edition," said he does not believe the "evidence is there that Saddam Hussein has these weapons of mass destruction at his fingertips and is ready to use them."

Like Mr. Baker, who he succeeded as secretary of state, he said he doesnt want to see the United States begin an attack without support. He said Mr. DeLay seemed to be trying to make him and other war skeptics look "wimpish."

Mr. DeLay advised people last week to "disregard the timid counsel of those who would mortgage our security to the false promises of wishful thinking and appeasement."

"Tom DeLay will be one of the first, at some point down the line, screaming about how much this costs and how weve gotten ourselves into kind of a semi-Vietnam situation because we didnt think through all of the problems," Mr. Eagleburger said.

Bill Sammon contributed to this report from Crawford, Texas.

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