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Leahy-Feingold: Demand Congress Be Consulted on Iraq By Barry Schweid Associated Press | Boston Globe




Thursday, 29 August, 2002


WASHINGTON (AP) President Bush should ask Congress for authorization before launching an attack against Iraq, two Democrats said Thursday as the administration struggled in its push for international backing.


''The administration should not expect to commit American troops to war with a wink and a nod to Congress,'' said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. ''There should be a full debate and a vote. That is what the Constitution prescribes, and that is what the American people expect.''


And Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., said nothing short of formal approval would be acceptable.


''The Constitution says that Congress has the sole power to declare war,'' Feingold said in an interview. Not doing so, he said, ''is an affront to Congress and to the American people.''


The Bush administration takes the position it needs nothing beyond the consent Congress gave for the 1990- 1991 war on Iraq to liberate Kuwait. But Bush's advisers have concluded that it would be prudent to seek some sort of expression of support from lawmakers if the president decides on military action.


On the international front, French President Jacques Chirac called the possibility of unilateral U.S. military action to depose President Saddam Hussein ''worrying.''


Chirac said any military action must be initiated by the U.N. Security Council.


China on Wednesday joined Germany, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Turkey in urging restraint. In Japan, seeking international support, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he could not provide a ''laundry list'' of countries that back the United States.


In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell called five foreign ministers, including Jack Straw of Britain, Anna Palacio of Spain and Joschka Fischer on Germany.


Powell's message was that ''Iraq's defiance of the Security Council and development of weapons of mass destruction constitutes a danger that we have to deal with,'' State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.


Intense debate also is under way within the administration on whether to seek a U.N. Security Council vote declaring that Saddam must readmit weapons inspectors, although Boucher said he knew of no decision to push for a new resolution.


White House officials are wrestling with early drafts of Bush's mid-September address to the U.N. General Assembly. Some are arguing the president to make a forceful case for strong action against Saddam, fearing that he is losing the public-relations battle and is allowing Vice President Dick Cheney to be the administration's most visible spokesman on Iraq.


Others caution that Bush must temper his rhetoric until he is prepared for military action.


White House spokesman Scott McClellan on Wednesday said the administration looked forward to any congressional hearings.


That would be ''part of a healthy discussion about how we move forward on Iraq,'' McClellan said.


Sentiment on Capitol Hill is mixed. Sen. John Warner of Virginia, senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he wanted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to testify next month on how prepared U.S. forces are for a war against Iraq.


Warner, in a letter to committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said ''Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, is, in my opinion, not going to sit on the sidelines.''


In a statement Wednesday, Levin said he was considering holding hearings and would make a decision after Congress' summer recess ends next week.


Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said Rumsfeld expected to be asked to testify and was prepared to comply.


Meanwhile, Turkey, a longtime U.S. ally, expressed grave doubts about an American attack on Iraq. It is proposing tighter trade sanctions, fearing that a Kurdish state could emerge if Bush used force.


This puts Turkey in the skeptical column along with such traditional U.S. friends as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and underscores how difficult it could be for Bush if he decided to invade or bomb Iraq to get rid of President Saddam Hussein.


Turkey's views were conveyed in two days of talks in Washington between Ugur Ziyal, undersecretary for foreign affairs, and high-level Bush administration officials. Ziyal made his views public on Wednesday.


''Think through the consequences,'' Ziyal advised.


Turkey's reservations about an attack could complicate any U.S. military planning. The country serves as the base for U.S. and British surveillance flights over Iraq and supported the war on Iraq in 1990-91 to liberate Kuwait.


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