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White House

March 24, 2002



. . .


. . . But we need to get on with the Tenet and Mitchell processes aggressively as we know how.

BLITZER: And is that in part because, without that, you're not going to be able to generate the support for action against Iraq, if it comes down to that? On your most recent trip to the region, most of these moderate Arab leaders with whom you met were not very enthusiastic about a U.S. strike against Iraq. King Abdullah of Jordan said, "To attack Baghdad now would be a disaster." Crown Prince Abdullah said, "I do not believe it is in the United States' interest or the interest of the region or the world's interest to do so." Those are pretty strong recommendations for you to hold back on Iraq.

CHENEY: But I -- the world's a lot more complicated than that, Wolf. And there's a great temptation to say, you know, "If A, then B." We try to connect these things up in our mind. There's no question but that there's a high level of concern throughout the region about the situation and the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It's not surprising King Abdullah of Jordan should be concerned; he lives right next door. He's got 60 percent of his population is Palestinian. His father's regime was almost overthrown by the PLO back in 1970, and there's a long history there. On the other side, he's bracketed by Iraq and Saddam Hussein. What I would say is that our friends in the region are equally concerned about the problems we see in Iraq, specifically the development of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein, his refusal to comply with the U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, which he signed up to at the end of the Gulf War, which said he would get rid of all his weapons of mass destruction.

BLITZER: Are you still committed to trying to get U.N. weapons inspection teams back into Iraq? Because, as you know, some critics -- Senator Fred Thompson, for example -- said that would be a waste, that they're just going to give a runaround.

CHENEY: What we said, Wolf, if you go back and look at the record is, the issue's not inspectors. The issue is that he has chemical weapons and he's used them. The issue is that he's developing and has biological weapons. The issue is that he's pursuing nuclear weapons. It's the weapons of mass destruction and what he's already done with them. There's a devastating story in this week's New Yorker magazine on his use of chemical weapons against the Kurds of northern Iraq back in 1988; may have hit as many 200 separate towns and villages. Killed upwards of 100,000 people, according to the article if it's to be believed. This is a man of great evil, as the president said. And he is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time, and we think that's cause for concern for us and for everybody in the region. And I found during the course of my travels that it is indeed a problem of great concern for our friends out there as well too. So the U.S. doesn't have a choice of saying, well, we're going to worry about Israeli-Palestinian peace or we're going to worry about Saddam Hussein. We've got to do it all.

BLITZER: How much time does Saddam Hussein have?

CHENEY: I can't say, I can't make a prediction on something like that. He knows we're deadly serious. Our friends and allies in the region know we're deadly serious and that we do need to find a way to address this problem.

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