WASHINGTON—Secretary of State Colin Powell rejected Saddam Hussein's claim that Iraq is not developing weapons of mass destruction and challenged the Iraqi leader Sunday to prove it by admitting United Nations inspectors.
"Let the inspectors in. Let them look everywhere with no constraints, no funny business, no conditions," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Powell and other senior officials said President Bush is considering various methods to achieve "regime change" in Baghdad, but has not yet decided upon military attack. "You can be sure that we are examining all possible options," Powell said.
Powell's comments came one day after Saddam told the Iraqi News Agency that his country is not interested in acquiring weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq's technological pursuits are being misrepresented by its critics.
"We want to acquire more science to serve ordinary people and humanity at large," Saddam was quoted as saying.
But Powell made it clear that the Bush administration wants Saddam ousted from power, preferably in favor of a democratic regime that includes representatives from all sectors of Iraqi society.
"Until that regime is changed, then his neighbors have much to fear, and we should be fearful too, because the weapons that he is developing could well fall into the hands of terrorists," Powell said.
In addition to weapons inspections, Powell said the White House would push for stronger economic sanctions against Iraq, which—with Iran and North Korea—has been labeled by Bush as part of an "axis of evil" in the war against terrorism.
The secretary of state acknowledged that Bush's blunt speech can "jangle people's nerves" and that U.S. allies in Europe are unsettled by his aggressive rhetoric.
"But once they settle down and understand that he is going about this in a prudent, disciplined, determined way ... they begin to understand why it might make sense for them to join in whatever efforts we may be getting ready to undertake," Powell said on CNN's "Late Edition."
Powell also called on North Korean President Kim Jong-il, who celebrated his 60th birthday Sunday, to solidify his political legacy by reconciling with South Korea and accepting a U.S. invitation to negotiate a more stable peace on the Korean peninsula.
"Lead your people to a better future and away from the past that has brought you nothing but condemnation. ...There is an opportunity right now, Mr. President. You should seize it," Powell said.
He was speaking from Tokyo, where he is accompanying Bush on a six-day Asian tour that will take them to South Korea on Tuesday.
The secretary of state also rejected recent criticism from some conservatives for saying on MTV that sexually active young people should use condoms. Powell said the worldwide AIDS pandemic, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Caribbean, requires sexually active young people to protect themselves.
"We have to use all the tools and programs at our disposal—abstinence, faithfulness and yes, condoms. And I don't take one step back from the remarks that I made," he said. "Any other statement is reckless and irresponsible."
(c) 2002, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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