US Secretary of State Colin Powell is assuring the Arab world the White House demand for regime change in Iraq aims at disarmament, not ousting President Saddam Hussein.
“If he co-operates, then the basis of changed-regime policy has shifted because his regime has, in fact, changed its policy to one of co-operation,” Powell said in an interview with a London-based Arab newspaper.
Powell said the policy of regime change in Baghdad was inherited from the Clinton administration by the Bush administration.
“We came into office in 2001 and kept that policy because Saddam Hussein had not changed,” Powell told the newspaper Al- Quds Al-Arabi .
“We now believe it is appropriate for Saddam Hussein to be forced to change, either by the threat of war, and therefore that compels him to cooperate,” Powell said.
“So if he co-operates, then that is different than if he does not cooperate,”, Powell said.
“It remains or policy to change the regime until such time as the regime changes itself,” he said.
Powell declined, meanwhile, to offer a judgement on the weapons declaration filed by Iraq with international weapons inspectors. And he said President George Bush had not decided whether to use force against Iraq.
At the White House, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said US officials were still studying the document.
Asked whether Iraq would have a chance to make good on any omissions that UN or US officials find, he said it was made “abundantly clear from the UN that this was Iraq’s last chance to inform the world in an accurate, complete and full way what weapons of mass destruction they possess.”