WASHINGTON — Emboldened by success in Afghanistan, some lawmakers are beating the drum for quick action to get rid of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. They take a different view of other nations singled out by President Bush as trouble.
Saddam should be removed, and soon, of Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut said Sunday. “He is a time bomb.”
An Iranian official, speaking for a government also labeled part of an “axis of evil” by Bush, bristled at the president’s threatening language but pledged cooperation in keeping al-Qaida terrorists out of his country.
“What we have experienced in the past couple of weeks has been a great deal of U.S. rhetoric, outright animosity and hostility, that has been put by various U.S. officials against my country,” Javad Zarif, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for international affairs, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
But he said al-Qaida terrorists are “enemies” of Iran and if any are found in his country, “we will return them to their own countries or to the government of Afghanistan.”
Bush’s State of the Union speech, lumping Iran, Iraq and North Korea together as an axis threatening international security, continues to resonate — through Congress and around the world — almost two weeks after its delivery.
North Korea called off a visit by a group of former U.S. ambassadors in reaction to Bush’s harsh words, two members of that unofficial delegation said on the weekend.
The trip had been arranged at North Korea’s invitation as a way to expand informal dialogue.
Lieberman, like many in Congress and apparently Bush himself, does not think all three “axis” countries pose equal threats or deserve the same response. There are “different gradations” of what the United States should do, the senator said.
North Korea can be dealt with diplomatically, the Iranians “need us to be very tough” and in Iraq, Saddam can’t remain in power, he said.
“We know that he has the means or the motivation to do us harm,” Lieberman said. “We know that he has weapons, chemical and biological weapons. We have reason to believe he is developing nuclear weapons.”
Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, agreed, saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Saddam was an “evil force.” But he cautioned that the focus should remain on terrorism; otherwise America might lose coalition allies.