- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday said the Bush administration seeks the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq, contradicting two speeches last week by the vice president.
"The president has been clear that he believes weapons inspectors should return," Mr. Powell said in a segment of a recorded TV interview that aired yesterday on the British Broadcasting Corp. The BBC will air the full interview Sunday.
"Iraq has been in violation of these many U.N. resolutions for most of the last 11 years or so [since the Persian Gulf war]. So as a first step, let's see what the inspectors find, send them back in," the secretary said.
Mr. Powell's remarks contradicted what Vice President Richard B. Cheney said about weapons inspections in speeches he delivered last week to veterans in Nashville, Tenn., and San Antonio.
The remarks, the subject of considerable discussion on most of yesterday's political talk shows, were taped after Mr. Cheney's first speech and before the second.
Mr. Cheney's speeches set out the case for pre-emptive military action against Iraq and indicated weapons inspections would not satisfy the U.S. government.
Saddam Hussein "has perfected the game of shoot and retreat and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception," Mr. Cheney told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Nashville. "A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with U.N. resolutions."
The vice president said there is a "great danger" that resuming inspections would "provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow back in his box." The inspections would just give Saddam more time to "plot" and develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Mr. Cheney reiterated his comments in an address to Korean War veterans Thursday in San Antonio.
Asked yesterday where President Bush stands on the issue of inspections, White House spokesman Taylor Gross did not answer directly.
"The regime in Iraq needs to abide by their commitment to inspections anywhere and anytime," he said, while adding: "Inspections are no guarantee, if the regime works to conceal its development of weapons of mass destruction."
His comments appeared to underscore a split in the Bush administration between those such as Mr. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who back a military attack on Iraq to oust Saddam and to block further development of weapons of mass destruction, and those, such as Mr. Powell, who are more wary of a war.
Time magazine reports this week that Mr. Powell plans to leave his position at the end of his current term, that he has "privately grown more frustrated" by the administration "hawks."
Time credits its report to "sources close to Powell" who say he has a "firm plan" for his exit in late 2004. These unnamed sources say Mr. Powell is "determined to serve out the entire term even if the U.S. launches an invasion of Iraq, which Powell has fought to delay or derail."
Mr. Bush has not said whether he has made up his mind to attack Iraq. Several Republican figures, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, say he has made up his mind to strike.
Time magazine, quoting an aide to Mr. Cheney, reports that the vice president's speeches were approved in advance by the president and that the president made additions and deletions in the remarks.
Mr. Cheney has a reputation for being careful not to go beyond what he knows the president thinks and wants him to say.
On "Fox News Sunday," Richard C. Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, criticized what he called the "disarray" in the administration over plans for Iraq.
"It's more of a summer of public disarray by the administration," Mr. Holbrooke said. "Instead of making the case unambiguously with a single group of people singing from the same song sheet, they're singing different lyrics to the same music, and they're undermining their case."
Mr. Holbrooke, who served in the Clinton administration, said Mr. Cheney "made a compelling case for why Saddam is too dangerous to be left untouched," and he said the administration is "right to seek a regime change."
"But they're undermining their own case, first by the disarray and secondly, by their failure to recognize that they must seek international approval through the U.N. Security Council."
Mr. Holbrooke and several others advising caution, including former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, want the United States to ask the U.N. Security Council to adopt a new resolution that would require Iraq to accept inspections at any time, anywhere, without prior notice.
Mr. Holbrooke said the resolution would contain language authorizing the "use of force" if Iraq violates the terms of the resolution.
But Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister, told CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer" that allowing inspectors back into Iraq is a "nonstarter because it's not going to bring about a conclusion."
He said Iraq is still offering to let a congressional delegation make inspections, but not the U.N. inspection team headed by Hans Blix.
"Mr. Blix might come to Iraq, and stay without telling the truth," Mr. Aziz said.
Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican, on NBC's "Meet the Press," discounted the value of inspections.
"I think Saddam will not allow inspectors back in, number one. The Security Council will not support us to put inspectors back in, two. And, three, if inspectors went back in, it would be a fool's errand."
He said if he had to choose between invading Iraq unilaterally or not going in at all, he would support going in alone.
Alexander Haig, secretary of state in the Reagan administration, told Fox News that the president has "got to lead and he's got to unify," and his team needs to "speak with one voice."
Mr. Haig, a retired four-star Army general, estimated that about 200,000 U.S. ground troops and "very strong air" power would be required for any invasion of Iraq.

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