U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Iraq bluntly that the United States is looking at ways to topple Saddam Hussein but insisted it had no plans to go to war with any nation, for now.
Powell defended President George W. Bush's description of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as "an axis of evil" and singled out Iraq as the worst of three but made clear the United States is not looking to provoke armed conflict with anyone.
"The president has no plans on his desk right now to begin a war with any nation," Powell told the Senate Budget Committee. "The president is not asking for a war budget."
"The president is not looking for a war, we're looking for peace," he said. "But you don't get peace by sticking your head in the sand and ignoring evil where it exists."
"The policies that we are following (are) to see if dialogue is possible, to see if peaceful solutions are possible, but at the same time not ignore our ultimate responsibilities if diplomacy and political action are not successful."
Though he ruled out any conflict with Iran or North Korea, he pointedly did not do so with Iraq. "The nation of perhaps higher level of concern than others is Iraq," Powell said. "With respect to Iran and with respect to North Korea, there is no plan to start a war with these nations. We want to see a dialogue."
According to AFP, at the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer, echoed Powell's comments while stressing that Bush is "prepared to take whatever action is necessary to protect the United States, protect our allies and to protect the peace internationally."
That said, he added: "I can assure you that no decisions have been made beyond the first phase of the war on terrorism
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said Iraq might seek de-escalation of tension created by its refusal to allow UN arms inspectors into the country, in an attempt to avoid punitive US attacks.
The Turkish leader made these remarks following his talks with Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri.
"I consider the remarks by the minister as meaning Iraq would be ready to seek consensus," declared Ecevit. The two met Tuesday during a two-day joint session of the European Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Istanbul.
Britain’s Former Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher has called for Britain to give extend strong support to United States President George W. Bush over his view of Iraq.
The former Prime Minister described Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as the most notorious rogue and said he must be removed, even by force if necessary.
Writing in the New York Times, Thatcher supported President Bush's stance regarding Iraq, Iran and North Korea as part of an “axis of evil”. She also singled out Libya as a threat.
Her comments came after Bush fuelled speculation that he plans to overthrow Saddam Hussein, by discussing Iraq in his State of the Union address last month, saying the country poses a threat to world stability as it amasses weapons of mass destruction. “This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world”, Bush announced.
Moreover, Thatcher said the war against terrorism had to have a second phase after the Afghanistan conflict, by striking at centers of Islamic terrorism throughout Africa and South-East Asia.
"This will require first-rate intelligence, shrewd diplomacy and a continued extensive military commitment," she wrote.
Thatcher expressed that the third stage of the war would be to deal with those hostile states that supported terrorism and sought weapons of mass destruction.
Naming Tehran and Damascus as potential targets, she said, "Both have energetically backed terrorism, the former has just been caught out dispatching arms to foment violence against Israel”.
"Iran is also making strides toward development of long-range missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads”, she added. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )