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Iraq: Bush Says It Is In World's Interest To See Saddam Removed

Washington, 22 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush is calling Saddam Hussein a threat to the civilized world and says it is in everyone's interest to see the Iraqi leader removed from power.

Bush spoke to reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, following a meeting yesterday with his top national-security advisers.

Bush said the discussion focused on modernizing America's military. He said the meeting, which included Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, did not deal with whether the U.S. should use military force to oust Saddam.

The issue was raised by reporters at the briefing following reports that several American allies have expressed reluctance to join the U.S. in any military moves against Iraq. "This administration agrees that Saddam Hussein is a threat. That's a part of our thinking and it hasn't changed. Nothing he has done has convinced me, and I'm confident for the secretary of defense, that he is the kind of fellow that is willing to forego weapons of mass destruction and that he's willing to be a peaceful neighbor," Bush said.

Bush said the United States will continue its consultations with friends and allies before any action is taken. The U.S. accuses Saddam of trying to develop biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons and of supporting terrorists.

Iraq has not allowed United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country since they left in late 1998. Baghdad says the inspectors were being used by Washington to spy on Iraq.

Bush said the discussions at his ranch also dealt with ways to protect the United States and its allies from terrorism. "The president of the United States and the secretary of state [Colin Powell] and our country have put together a coalition that stretches across the entire globe that is addressing the problem of the global war of terrorism. It [includes] 80 or 90 countries," Rumsfeld said.

The defense secretary said the coalition was working hard to neutralize Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. "The coalition that is working on the global war on terrorism that [the U.S.] president and the secretary [of state] have put together is broad, it's deep, it's impressive, and it is in fact what is helping the forward progress that we're achieving, the traction we're getting with respect to dealing with the terribly, terribly difficult problem of global terrorist networks," Rumsfeld said.

Also joining Bush at the meeting were Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House chief of staff Andrew Card, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers. Powell did not participate.

At the United Nations, meanwhile, the U.S. again brought up the issue of Baghdad's refusal to resolve the status of 600 Kuwaiti and third-party nationals missing since Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Under the Gulf War cease-fire agreement, Iraq is required to release all prisoners of war.

The current UN Security Council president, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, said, "Despite growing international activity with the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the European Union, the government of Iraq has yet to match its words on the fate of missing persons with tangible deeds and cooperation."

Negroponte said the status of the missing nationals must be resolved -- along with the inspection issue -- before UN sanctions against Iraq can be lifted.

(RFE/RL's UN correspondent, Robert McMahon, also contributed to this story.)