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Albright vows harsh punishment for Saddam

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright promised Sunday that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will be punished severely if the United States decides to use military force to enforce U.N. resolutions.

Republican leaders contended that's not enough - the ultimate goal, they said, is to drive Saddam from power.Albright repeated that Saddam has only weeks to accede to a diplomatic solution to avoid a U.S.-led attack. Bill Richardson, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, rejected the latest Iraqi offer to avoid it, a two-month window for U.N. officials to inspect Saddam's presidential palaces for concealed weapons.

Albright, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," said any military action against Iraq for interfering with U.N. weapons inspectors would be a "substantial strike" aimed at diminishing Saddam's ability to rebuild weapons of mass destruction and threaten his neighbors.

Defense Secretary William Cohen arrived Sunday in Saudi Arabia to discuss the Iraq question and said the United States had enough firepower in the region to carry out strikes without using U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia. Saudi leaders have been reported opposing the use of force against Iraq and has been reluctant to allow military missions to originate from Saudi soil.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., speaking after Albright on CBS, said there are worries in Congress that the administration lacks an effective endgame, which would include removing Saddam.

Lott suggested support for democratic forces in Iraq as a way to do it, or setting up a Radio Free Iraq or expanding theU.N.-ordered flight-interdiction zone over Iraq. "I'm not talking about assassination, but I'm talking about a coherent long-term policy," Lott said.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" that he would support military action against Iraq but added: "Ultimately, though, we're going to have to face up to the fact we're going to have to get rid of him, one way or the other."

"We would obviously," Albright said, "look forward to dealing with a different Iraqi regime, but we have to be very clear about what we are after."

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said on Fox that taking out Saddam is "not a doable policy and . . . would require significant numbers of ground forces that I don't think Congress would support."

The Republican-controlled Congress has been working on a statement of support for administration policy toward Iraq but has failed to agree on what it should say.

Former Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the coalition forces that decisively beat Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that removing Saddam would be a "very, very tough thing to do" without better intelligence and a willingness to use ground forces.

But he warned of a risk that, just as in the bombing of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, punishing Iraq with air strikes without eliminating Iraq's rulers would only toughen their resolve.

Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, said on CNN's "Late Edition" that a "good chance" remains of averting a military showdown.

He offered a proposal under which representatives of the U.N. Security Council, including the United States, would have 60 days to inspect eight presidential sites to determine they were not being used to hide weapons. "I don't see how Iraq could be asked for more," Hamdoon said.

But Richardson, also appearing on CNN, said the proposal is unacceptable, that the access of U.N. weapons inspectors must be total and unhindered. "What we are seeing is another compromise that would permit them to obscure the fact that they are probably building substantial weapons of mass destruction," Richardson said.

Richardson and Albright, both back from trips to win support from American allies for possible military action, expressed confidence that Saudi Arabia will continue to support the United States although officially it opposes a military attack.

"In the end I believe we will have Saudi support for whatever action we take," Richardson said.

"I do have confidence that in the end the Saudis, who have been good allies and friends, will do what is necessary," Albright said.