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Bipartisan Snake Poised to Strike Iraq

Waving flag and talking tough, leading Democrats say "Me too!" to Bush's plan to topple Iraqi leader and former US asset. Biden would be upset, "Only if it doesn't work." Reasons cited to justify overthrow apply only to Iraq, not to rogue states like Israel and US.


Mon Jun 17, 1:57 AM ET
By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Saddam Hussein should be forced from power, three prominent Democratic lawmakers said amid disclosure of a presidential order giving the CIA broader discretion to take action against the Iraqi leader.

"If Saddam Hussein's around five years from now, we've failed," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., D-Del., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Asked if the plan to give the CIA broader authority had given him any pause, Biden said, "Only if it doesn't work."

Support for enlarging the CIA's role against Iraq came Sunday from three potential Democratic presidential candidates in 2004: Biden on CBS' "Face the Nation," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota on "Fox News Sunday" and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri on ABC's "This Week."

President Bush signed an order early this year directing the CIA to increase support to Iraqi opposition groups and expand intelligence collection efforts within the Iraqi government, The Washington Post reported Sunday. It said the plan also calls for possible use of CIA and U.S. Special Forces teams to capture Saddam, and to kill him if the teams are acting in self-defense.

The administration "is trying to bring about a change in regime. ... I think it is an appropriate action to take," Gephardt said.

The Democrats, along with Republicans in Congress, cited Saddam's alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and violations of United Nations resolutions and international law as justification for such a move.

Daschle said he is satisfied with the degree of consultation so far between the administration and Congress on the plan boosting the CIA's role.

Bush's order to the CIA is part of a larger discussion about how to proceed against Iraq.

"There is broad support for a regime change in Iraq" and "we want to work with the administration and try to find the best way and the best time to do this," the Senate leader said. "Do we keep our eye on the ball in terms of al-Qaida (terror network) to collapse? Can we work in the Middle East in a constructive way? ... The timing of this is very important."

Biden said, "I know of three distinct plans being discussed within the administration and three distinct points of view as to how to proceed."

Congressional Republicans also offered support for steps short of war such as the order involving the CIA.

"We need a regime change in Iraq. If we can do it on the cheap ... that's fine," Sen. John McCain ( news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., said on "Face the Nation."

Bush administration officials declined to discuss the plan.



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