- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Top lawmakers will meet with President Bush today on Iraq amid criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike that the White House has yet to make a strong case for military action.
"We need a little more coherence and a little more discipline," said Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, adding that administration officials "should be speaking as one."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has advocated the return of United Nations weapons inspectors to Iraq. But Vice President Richard B. Cheney has said such inspections are of little value because Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein cannot be trusted to give inspectors full access.
"Most Democrats believe that the president has yet to make the case for taking action in Iraq," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "We were thinking about having a debate among those within the administration so that we might get both sides."
The Bush administration says it has no immediate plans to go to war with Iraq but wants to remove Saddam from power. The White House says Saddam is developing weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them.
At an economic summit in South Africa, Iraqi officials said Iraq was ready to discuss a return of U.N. weapons inspectors, but only in a broader context of ending sanctions and restoring Iraqi sovereignty over all its territory. The latter issue refers to the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq created after the 1991 Gulf war and patrolled by U.S. and British warplanes.
"If you want to find a solution, you have to find a solution for all these matters, not only pick up one certain aspect of it," Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. "We are ready to find such a solution."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the United States wants Iraq to let U.N. weapons inspectors return without conditions. He said Iraq was trying to "play the international community and the U.N. process like a guitar, plucking the right string and the right process at the right moment."
"And then you'll find at the last moment, they'll withdraw that carrot and go back into their other mode of thumbing their nose at the international community," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Many lawmakers agreed. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said the "likelihood of a meaningful inspection is remote."
"I cannot imagine [Saddam] doing it, because he is on the path towards the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction," Mr. McCain said. "He doesn't want it discovered."
He said of Saddam's motives for appearing open to weapons inspections, "There could be only one reason survival."
Some in Congress said a new round of weapons inspections would build international support for action against Iraq by giving the world a fresh example of Saddam's intransigence.
"The degree to which he rejects access reminds those who are skeptical about anything else we might do, about why we're doing it," Mr. Daschle said. "So I think it, again, sets a little more understandable stage for the concern that we've had from the very beginning about his lack of cooperation, about his unwillingness to provide information that all sides agreed to in the early '90s."
Returning to Washington from their monthlong recess, however, lawmakers said any imminent danger from Iraq has not registered with their constituents, who questioned them repeatedly about the justification for a war.
"The American people don't think the case has been made," said Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat.
Mr. Roberts said the issue was the second-most prominent topic, after drought relief, in meetings he held in 31 Kansas counties during August. He said his constituents are not necessarily opposed to war with Iraq.

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