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Iraq: State Department Says Saddam Could Be Ousted

Washington, 10 March 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A senior U.S. State Department official says President Bill Clinton's policies could produce the ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before Clinton's term of office ends almost two years from now.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones told a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing Tuesday that it is entirely possible that the anti-Saddam policies will succeed.

Subcommittee chairman Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican from the midwestern state of Kansas posed the question after criticizing the Clinton Administration for what he said was a lack of a comprehensive strategy to remove Saddam.

Here is an excerpt of the question-and-answer exchange:

Sen. Brownback: "Do you think the regime change will happen during this administration?"

Ms. Jones: "I think it's entirely possible, yes. I hear this -- like I say, I hear it myself from my conversations with the people in the North that I've had just in the last couple of days."

Sen. Brownback: "So patience is the watchword?"

Ms. Jones: "No, not patience. It's a tremendous amount of talking, cajoling, meetings, traveling around to make sure we get the right people in the meetings, bringing Iraqis together who have not talked to each other for quite a long time, bringing Iraqis together who haven't worked together, creating a genuine coalition among the Iraqis who don't naturally necessarily come together." The U.S. Congress gave the president almost $100 million last year to fund a package of programs aimed at building up an opposition inside and outside Iraq that could overthrow him.

Jones said it is essential for "a very broad group of Iraqis, Iraqis in exile and Iraqis inside the country," to work together so events are not influenced in what she called a skewed fashion.

She also said the U.S. believes it is "very important for the Kurds to participate, for the Shi'a to participate, for Sunni groups to participate, for tribal organizations to participate, Turkomen, Assyrians."

Jones said the U.S. is working "extremely hard on them," to convince the diverse groups to work together and "to really come up with a very clear sense of purpose and a very steadfast focus on what's most important, which is regime change, rather than on some of the past that has gotten in their way up till now."

Brownback said he was "very troubled" by what he viewed as the Administration's lack of effort to implement the Iraq Liberation Act -- the legislation that authorized the funds for the anti-Saddam programs.

Said Brownback: "The entire U.S. strategy seems to depend upon bombing, and will I support a vigorous and aggressive defense of the no-fly zones, (but) I am concerned that I do not see more action on other fronts which could help bring us closer to the end of this bloody regime."

Jones contended that the Administration has "a very good, very coordinated, cohesive strategy for dealing with a very difficult problem, a very difficult situation, and one that is as of great concern to us as it is to you."

She said the efforts to build up a coalition, combined with the U.S.-British air attacks on Iraqi military installations, are weakening Saddam Hussein's grip on power.