- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

The Bush administration would inform Congress, in a move "consistent with the Constitution," before initiating any military attack on Iraq, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Powell dismissed British press reports that the purpose of a Washington visit by Prime Minister Tony Blair from April 5-7 is to finalize war plans for Iraq.
"It certainly isn't my understanding of the purpose of their meeting," Mr. Powell said at a House Budget Committee hearing on his department's spending plans.
"I am sure they will discuss many things, but there are no plans to finalize because the president has no plans on his desk, and I don't know of any plans that would be on his desk at the time that Prime Minister Blair visits," he said.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Naji Sabri, the Iraqi foreign minister, to discuss international sanctions and demands for a return of weapons inspectors to Baghdad.
The United Nations called the meetings with Iraq "positive and constructive" but gave no details about whether the inspectors would be allowed to return. The sides agreed to continue discussions in mid-April.
Mr. Powell was asked by Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, if the administration would notify Congress before taking military action against Iraq.
"I hope it won't be like the shadow government," Mr. McDermott said, referring to a backup government constituted and hidden by the Bush administration after September 11 in case of another terrorist attack. Its existence was kept secret from Congress.
"I hope we won't get a budget request for a fait accompli," he said.
Mr. Powell said the Bush administration wants a change of regime in Iraq and is prepared to act alone if allies balk at the plan.
"If the president finds it necessary to take action" in the case of Iraq or other theaters of the war on terrorism, "we would consult with Congress consistent with the Constitution," Mr. Powell said.
Congress alone has the authority to declare war under the constitution. But presidents often have sent U.S. troops to fight abroad without a formal declaration of war, even though some of the actions were authorized by votes in Congress. Examples include Korea, Vietnam, Panama, the Gulf war, Grenada, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Mr. Powell repeated the administration's position on the Iran-Iraq-North Korea "axis of evil," saying "there is no war which is about to break out with any one of these three countries."
He also said Mr. Bush's decision to label Iran as one of the three "axis of evil" members had spurred an internal debate between Iran's centrists and its hard-liners.


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