- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., Feb. 25 (UPI) — Sen. Peter Fitzgerald says President Bush told him he would have Saddam Hussein assassinated if he knew where he was and had good intelligence for a clear shot.

The Illinois Republican told Tuesday's Arlington Heights Daily Herald he and Bush talked about the Iraqi leader on Jan. 7 when Fitzgerald joined the president on a flight back to Washington aboard Air Force One after Bush's tax-cut speech in Chicago.

Fitzgerald's conversation with the president came up during the senator's interview with the newspaper's editorial board Monday. Fitzgerald was asked how the United States could remove Hussein from power without killing thousands of Iraqi civilians.

"That's a really good question because the administration — I have personally talked to the president about this and if we had the intelligence on where he was now, and we had a clear shot to assassinate him, we would probably do that," Fitzgerald said. "President Bush would probably sign an executive order repealing the executive order put in place by President Ford that forbid the assassination of foreign leaders."

Fitzgerald said he would support the one-time change in U.S. policy to kill Saddam.

"I think in this limited case it would make sense if you could avoid a lot of civilian casualties, harm to our own young men and women in the armed forces, I think it would make sense. Not as a permanent change in the policy but as a one-time policy," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald spokeswoman Laura Anne Miller, who works in the senator's Chicago office, said the senator would have no comment on the report.

Assassinating a foreign leader would break a 26-year-old ban on political assassinations put in place by executive order by President Gerald Ford after revelations of CIA-led plots to kill foreign leaders in the 1960s and 1970s. Cuban President Fidel Castro allegedly was the target of a U.S.-backed assassination attempt.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said he could not confirm whether Bush and Fitzgerald discussed the assassination of Hussein.

He told the Daily Herald Ford's February 1976 executive order banning killings of foreign leaders remains in effect. President Ronald Reagan extended the order in 1981 to include hired assassinations.

Bush told an audience at a Houston fund-raiser last September U.S. officials believed Hussein wanted to assassinate his father when the elder Bush was president during the Gulf War.

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