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Bush, Rumsfeld: War or No, It's Saddam Hussein's Choice

By Kathleen T. Rhem and Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2002 – War with the world or not, those are Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's choices, the president and defense secretary said today.

President Bush spoke with reporters at the White House. When a journalist asked how likely a war with Iraq is, Bush told him he should ask Hussein.

"The question is whether or not he chooses to disarm, and we hope he does," the president said. "For the sake of peace, he must disarm."

At a Pentagon press conference, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also stressed that the choice is up to Saddam Hussein. "The Iraqis are faced with a decision," Rumsfeld said.

Inspections only work if the country being inspected truly wants the world to know it has reformed, he said, adding U.N. inspectors cannot hope to find all weapons of mass destruction without Iraqi cooperation. The Iraqi declaration on the weapons due Dec. 8, and the dealing with inspectors "will reflect what decision has been made by the Iraqi leadership," Rumsfeld said.

"They could decide that the game's up and Saddam Hussein and his family could leave the country, which would be a nice outcome," he said. Hussein could also throw open the doors to Iraq and show the inspectors everything, and stop repressing his people and threatening his neighbors.

"Or he could follow the pattern of previous years and say the game is not up, I'm going to continue to lie and deceive and deny and string along the inspectors and prevent them from finding out that we're lying and deceiving and denying," he said.

By the actions he takes, Hussein will show the choice he's made to deal with the problem of disarming, Rumsfeld said.

Bush's exchange came following his meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi. In that meeting, he expressed condolences to Moi on behalf of the American people for the deadly suicide bombing of a Kenyan hotel Nov. 28 that killed 10 Kenyans and three Israeli tourists.

Israeli and Kenyan authorities in recent news reports have linked the hotel attack to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, which the United States blames for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.

"Our country mourns the loss of life in Kenya, the tragedy that befell your country as a result of killers trying to terrorize freedom-loving people," Bush told Moi.

Zenawi said he believes the war on terrorism is a war "against people who have not caught up with the 21st century, who have values and ideas that are contrary to the values of the 21st century."

He said the United States is not fighting against Muslims, but a fight between "those who want to catch up with the 21st century and those who want to remain where they are."

The three leaders discussed security in Africa, drought relief and economic stability. Bush said Ethiopia and Kenya have aided in the war on terrorism by sharing intelligence about activities within their countries.

"We've got a good intelligence-gathering network, made stronger by the fact that we share information between countries," he said. "The best thing we can do is to chase the killers down, and we're making good progress."

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