- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2002

Vice President Richard B. Cheney said yesterday that Saddam Hussein is "actively and aggressively" trying to build a nuclear bomb, and two key senators disclosed that U.S. officials have warned the Iraqi dictator that he and his country face "annihilation" if he deploys a weapon of mass destruction.
"We have recently let Saddam Hussein know what the consequences of his use of a weapon of mass destruction chemical, biological, or, if and when he acquires it, nuclear against any of his neighbors, and that would be annihilation," Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said on CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer."
Mr. Graham said it has "been conveyed to Baghdad" that using a weapon of mass destruction would result "not only in the annihilation" of Saddam, "but of much of his society."
Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and vice chairman of the intelligence committee, who was also on "Late Edition," when asked if Saddam has been "formally warned" of extinction if he uses such a weapon, said: "Absolutely. We've done that before. The first President Bush in 1990, '91 did that. I think it was clear, unmistakable language."
Interviewed yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Mr. Cheney offered the most detailed information the Bush administration has made available yet why the United States should act now to remove Saddam.
Senior Bush administration officials blanketed network news talk shows yesterday in preparation for a key speech the president will deliver to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday. In the speech, Mr. Bush is expected to make a case for military action against Iraq, though aides said yesterday that he has not decided whether to invade Iraq.
Mr. Cheney and others yesterday raised the specter of Iraq attacking this country with his deadly weapons. The United States "may well become the target," the vice president said.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, interviewed on CBS' "Face the Nation," agreed. "Imagine a September 11 with weapons of mass destruction. It's not 3,000 [dead]. It's tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children."
Though some critics have challenged the legal right of the United States to make an unprovoked attack against Iraq to oust its leader, Mr. Cheney said the United States would be justified to strike first against any government that plans to attack this nation.
"We find ourselves, on the one hand, with the demonstrated greater vulnerability of September 11, and, on the other hand, with the very clear evidence that this is a man who is resuming all those [weapons] programs that the U.N. Security Council tried to get him to forgo some 10 or 11 years ago" after Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Mr. Cheney said. "And, increasingly, we believe we will become the targets of those activities."
He added: "If we have reason to believe someone is preparing an attack against the United States, has developed that capability, harbors those aspirations, then I think the U.S. is justified in dealing with that, if necessary, by military force."
On CNN, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said, "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is a danger to the United States and to our allies, to our interests. It simply makes no sense to wait any longer to do something about the threat that is posed here."
Miss Rice said it is not safe to wait for the "100 percent surety" that Saddam has a "weapon of mass destruction that can reach the United States." Such certainty might not come until "something lands in our territory."
"There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Mr. Cheney said that based on intelligence acquired in the past 12 to 14 months, the United States can conclude that Saddam has "stepped up his capacity to produce and deliver biological weapons, that he has reconstituted his nuclear program to develop a nuclear weapon, that there are efforts under way inside Iraq to significantly expand his capacity."
In the NBC interview, Mr. Cheney confirmed a report in yesterday's editions of the New York Times that Saddam is "now trying through the illegal procurement network to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich" low-grade uranium for a weapon.
Specifically, he said, the United States has been able to "intercept and prevent" Saddam from acquiring a kind of aluminum tube "necessary to build a centrifuge." Mr. Cheney said a centrifuge is required to enhance the quality of uranium to make it usable in a nuclear bomb.
This news follows release of a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency that cites satellite photographs showing new construction at several Iraqi sites linked to Saddam's development of nuclear weapons. "I don't know what more evidence we need" that Saddam is a threat and should go, Mr. Bush said Saturday at Camp David.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair agrees with Mr. Bush, but other European allies and Arab nations continue to oppose intervention in Iraq. Mr. Blair said Saturday at Camp David that he anticipates opponents would change their minds after seeing the evidence.
In Baghdad, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan yesterday denied reports Iraq is trying to collect materials for nuclear weapons and building up sites once targeted by U.N. weapons inspectors. He told the Associated Press that such claims were "lies" by the United States and Britain to justify an attack on his country.
"There is no such a thing. They are telling lies and lies to make others believe them." He predicted the "whole world" will oppose the United States if it attacks.
A week ago, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell set off frenzied speculation when he said in an interview on the British Broadcasting Corp. that the first step should be an attempt to get the United Nations to order weapons inspectors back into Iraq. His comments contradicted those of Mr. Cheney, who had said a few days earlier that inspections, which were halted in 1998, would not be useful.
Mr. Powell appeared yesterday to soften his comments, telling Fox interviewers that Mr. Cheney was "expressing well-deserved skepticism" about the value of inspections.
"We shouldn't rest our total policy and give full confidence to any inspection regime. And no inspection regime would be of any use unless it's anywhere, anytime, anyplace, anybody."
"You should have a skeptical attitude as to how much such inspections can do, especially in the presence of a regime that's going to do everything they can to hide things from inspectors."
Mr. Cheney said the war would be very costly. Some have put the likely price tag at between $60 billion and $80 billion. However, he said on NBC: "The danger of an attack against the United States by someone with the weapons Saddam Hussein now has or is acquiring is far more costly than what it would cost to go deal with the problem militarily."

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