- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2002

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle yesterday urged President Bush to take a tougher stance with Saudi Arabia, whom he accused of insufficiently fighting terrorism, and said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat must be replaced.
The South Dakota Democrat told "Fox News Sunday" he was not convinced the Saudi government was doing everything it could to fight terrorism. Most of the September 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens.
"I think we can get a lot more help from the Saudis in so many ways," Mr. Daschle said. "They could be a lot more overt in their support and their willingness to work with us. They could help us a lot more in the subsurface efforts that are under way. We're not getting that kind of help, and I'm disappointed."
Mr. Daschle's criticism of the Saudi government comes amid reports that three Saudi nationals arrested last month in Morocco were planning suicide attacks in bomb-filled boats against American and British warships.
Mr. Daschle also said Mr. Bush should be more "aggressive" in U.S. relations with the Saudi government and other Middle Eastern countries because U.S. efforts to penetrate al Qaeda largely depend on help from that region.
"There is a tremendous network out there. And if we're going to penetrate that network, if we're going to do all that we can to ensure our success at all levels, we need a lot more support from our allies, especially those in the Middle East, than in some cases we're getting," he said.
"We need to be more aggressive. We need to be even confrontational with the leadership of the Saudi government in those occasions when they're not doing enough, and when they are sponsoring this propaganda of the ilk we've seen."
Mr. Daschle's comments came the same day Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah called Mr. Bush to discuss international efforts to reach a solution in the Middle East.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Daschle said the Palestinian movement should replace Mr. Arafat to bolster the chances of bringing about peace in the Middle East. "Sooner or later it has to happen," he said. "There has to be a regime change there. It has to happen from within the Palestinian movement. I don't think we can force it ourselves, but it's necessary in order to reach some peaceful arrangement."
Meanwhile, other lawmakers backed Mr. Bush's policy allowing the United States to act pre-emptively against potential terrorist attackers, including Iraq.
Mr. Bush told U.S. Military Academy graduates at West Point, N.Y., on June 1 that the United States had to "take the battle to the enemy, disrupt its plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge."
Lawmakers confirmed yesterday that Mr. Bush had signed a new intelligence order earlier this year that allows CIA operatives to do whatever is necessary to oust Saddam from power.
"The administration is trying to bring about a change in regime. I think it is an appropriate action to take," House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt said on ABC's "This Week." "I hope it succeeds."
Mr. Gephardt said there was suspicion that Saddam had already shared information on his weapons programs with al Qaeda and "that the al Qaeda people may have gotten some of their abilities from what he's done."
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, echoed Mr. Gephardt's sentiments. "I don't think there's any question that if Saddam Hussein is around five years from now, we've failed," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "We need a plan."
Republicans also offered support. "We need a regime change in Iraq. If we can do it on the cheap," short of a war involving U.S. troops, "that's fine," Sen. John McCain of Arizona said on "Face the Nation." "I don't know if we can succeed or not. But my argument is, why not try it? I mean, we should attempt to succeed that way, otherwise, and thereby preventing the loss of American lives."
Government officials declined to discuss Mr. Bush's plan to use CIA operatives against Saddam. "We don't comment on intelligence matters," said White House spokeswoman Jeannie Mamo.
Mr. Daschle said Mr. Bush should proceed carefully in the war on terrorism. However, he also backed the president's announcement about pre-emption. "I think there may be occasions when pre-emptions are necessary, and when those occasions arise, I hope that it will be the policy of the United States to consult with our colleagues and our allies around the world," Mr. Daschle told Fox News.
Mr. Daschle also said he supports Mr. Bush's orders to topple Saddam, even though most of America's allies oppose any U.S.-led action against Iraq.


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