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Get tough on Saddam, say leaders of Congress

SHARE Get tough on Saddam, say leaders of Congress

Congress' top four leaders agreed Sunday that the United States should respond quickly, including taking military action, to show Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that his decision barring Americans from U.N. weapons inspection teams is unacceptable.

"The only thing that he (Saddam) seems to understand is action, and that's what's going to have to happen," House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt said.But the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, said that while all options are being considered, at this stage it is the United Nations, not the United States, that must confront the Iraqis.

"This is not a fight between the United States and Iraq. This is Iraq confronting the United Nations and (U.N.) Security Council violations," Richardson said on ABC's "This Week."

The Baghdad government declared last week that Americans could no longer participate in U.N. weapons inspections and gave 10 American inspectors in Iraq until Thursday to leave the country. On Sunday, Iraqi officials turned away three Americans trying to enter in advance of the teams' resumption of work on Monday.

Gephardt, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," said they stand in unison on the need to make Saddam back down.

"We defeated them militarily. They need to abide by the rules, and we should be prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to enforce those rules," Gingrich said.

Lott speculated that the reason the Iraqis are trying to shut out the Americans is that the inspectors "were very close to finding some more very dangerous weapons."

Saddam's actions, added Daschle, "are completely unacceptable, and I think we have to act sooner rather than later."

Talking from New York, Richardson said the United Nations is not seeking a military confrontation with Iraq. "The first priority has to be to resolve this diplomatically. We want to be in concert with the U.N. and especially our colleagues on the Security Council," he said.

Richardson said the U.N. Security Council meets Monday to discuss the latest crisis involving Iraq's compliance with U.N. resolutions arising out of Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

France has suggested sending a team to Baghdad to discuss the issue, and Richardson said the United States would not necessarily oppose that "if there is a very strong message to Saddam Hussein that he must comply with U.N. resolutions . . . that he be basically read the riot act."

The ambassador added, however, "What we don't want to see is somebody going to negotiate with him. There is no negotiation."