- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday she supports using force to disarm Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, though she said inspections would be better than war if they can work.

"It is preferable that we do this in a peaceful manner through coercive inspection … but if it's just more of the same equivocation and prevarication we've had from him before, at some point we have to be willing to uphold the United Nations resolutions," the New York Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee said during a visit to the Watervliet Arsenal, a military arms producer in upstate New York.

And her spokesman said in yesterday's New York Post that Mrs. Clinton "fully supports the steps the president has taken to disarm Iraq."

It's the most unequivocal the senator has been since October, when she voted for a resolution authorizing the president to go to war to disarm Saddam. And her staunch position leaves her at odds with much of her party's base.

"This is a very delicate balancing act," she said. "I fully support the policy of disarming Saddam Hussein."

The senator added that the Bush administration needed to continue to enlist the support of the American public in the war effort, and to convince the rest of the world that Iraq and its dictatorship presented a threat that warrants military action.

While most Republican lawmakers in Washington support President Bush's policy toward Iraq, Democratic lawmakers are sharply divided.

Four of the nine Democrats seeking their party's nomination for president have supported the president's policy toward Iraq to some degree: Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

But the party base itself is strongly opposed to action, as was shown during the Democratic National Committee's recent winter meeting. There, party leaders gave former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, one of those seeking the party's nomination and a fierce critic of the administration, the loudest applause.

Some Democrats have remained largely silent on Iraq since the October resolution, but Mrs. Clinton has seemed to go back and forth in her remarks.

During a January news conference, Mrs. Clinton said the president "still has to make his case to the American people with respect to any action that might be taken."

"I also believe that we should give the inspections time to work," she said. "They may or may not, in the end, be able to do the job of disarming Saddam Hussein in a very difficult environment, but they have been making some progress. And I want to see that played out."

In an article titled "Hillary Clinton tells Irish TV she is against war with Iraq," the Irish Times reported last month that she gave an interview on Irish television in which she was against quick action in Iraq.

But she also has urged support for war if it comes to that.

She called on Ireland to back the United States in the event of war, saying that "the war against terrorism is a war that involves all of us."

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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