Spanish foreign minister calls U.S. attack on Iraq only

Tuesday, August 13th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said Tuesday a U.S. attack on Iraq was only hypothetical at this point and urged that any action to depose President Saddam Hussein be guided by international rules of law.

After a briefing by Secretary of State Colin Powell on U.S. policy, the Spanish minister said ``the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein.''

But she gave no indication President Bush was about to make a decision on whether to employ military, economic, diplomatic or other means.

``This is a hypothesis that I don't think that we should address now. It's not realistic,'' Palacio told reporters in a joint news conference with Powell.

``Having said that, Spain and the United States are committed to what I would call the rule of law in the world and the fight for the rule of law in the world, but are committed to the community of states within the United Nations,'' the minister said.

Last week, Powell and other senior Bush administration officials met with a group of political opponents of Saddam, and Powell said Monday that further meetings would be held.

He said the aim was to measure the effectiveness of the opposition elements to see whether a representative form of government could be put in place in Baghdad after Saddam.

Powell said he was not sure this was possible, stressing the Bush administration was looking for successors to Saddam who ``will reflect the best values of the 21st century world and not the criminal values represented by Saddam Hussein.''

Meanwhile, like the Spanish foreign minister, American lawmakers say they are waiting for Bush to make his case for invading Iraq before they endorse it. They say evidence that Saddam is prepared to use weapons of mass destruction was the key factor.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, meanwhile, urged the United States to give diplomacy more time to resolve the Iraqi situation. He reiterated that his country would not allow itself to be used as a staging area for an attack its neighbor.

At the Pentagon on Monday, officials said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is scheduled to meet with Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on Aug. 21. The officials did not disclose the meeting's agenda.

Saudi Arabia also confirmed Sunday that it was holding 16 alleged al-Qaida members who had been turned over by Iranian officials in June after they sought refuge in that country.

Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., said that while not inevitable, it now is ``probable'' an invasion of Iraq will be necessary. But, he added, Bush has to clearly tell the American people why Saddam is a danger.

``The president has to make the case that ... to wait for provocation (from Saddam) is to invite a very, very large disaster,'' Lugar, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on CBS' ``Face the Nation.''

``At the end of the day we have to separate those weapons of mass destruction from Saddam,'' he said.

Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he agreed the president has not yet made the justification for a war with Iraq, but that ``he's in the process of doing that.''