Published August 06, 2002
WASHINGTON – The National Security Council meeting at the White House Monday included a presentation by the general who oversaw the war in Afghanistan on the "military options" for an attack on Iraq, senior defense officials told Fox News.
President Bush reviewed the Pentagon's latest scenario for attacking Iraq with Gen. Tommy Franks, who would command any invasion of Iraq, and other key advisers.
While one defense official said a specific plan was not singled out, different proposals were presented to the president for his consideration.
The official pointed out that the statement "a plan is not on the president's desk yet" is still accurate, but the options and variations are now being presented regularly and reviewed by top officials.
Franks has been refining the Pentagon's strategy and offering updates to the National Security Council over the past few weeks.
Bush has raised the threat of a military assault to depose Iraqi President Saddam Hussein but also said other tactics were also to be considered.
Possibly in anticipation of a decision, Saddam has invited the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, to Baghdad for talks, with the hint it might result in renewing a hunt for illicit weapons that was suspended in December 1998.
But the Bush administration rejected the offer as well as one to members of Congress to tour suspected biological, chemical and nuclear weapons sites.
Iraq's parliament speaker, Sadoun Hammadi, invited the lawmakers, accompanied by arms experts of their choice, for a three-week visit.
Administration officials said that would not satisfy the president's demand for rigorous inspections in Iraq.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld stressed the difficulty of locating Iraq's weapons caches since some are underground and others mobile.
"I can't think of anything funnier than a handful of congressmen walking around. They'd have to be there for the next 50 years trying to find something. It's a joke," he said in an interview with a group of journalists.
Administration official also dismissed an Iraqi offer to meet with Hans Blix, the head of the U.N. inspection team.
Iraq's obligations go beyond permitting inspections to fulfilling a commitment to disarm, State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said.
"Our position on inspections and disarmament is well-known," said Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Blix could accept the invitation for talks in Baghdad if Saddam agreed to the return of U.N. inspectors.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said "the letter seems to be another attempt by the Iraqi leadership to deflect attention from their unwillingness to fulfill a commitment they've already made to the international community."
Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said the invitation should not be considered until Iraq complies with U.N. resolutions for weapons inspections.
And Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic whip, rejected Iraq's invitation as "disingenuous." She said "every country should insist that Iraq allow United Nations weapons inspectors into the country."
In the meantime, a group of key leaders of the Iraqi opposition is expected in Washington on Friday at the invitation of the State and Defense Departments.
The aim is to end infighting between the rival opposition leaders and unnerve Saddam.
Bush signed an order earlier this year authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency to increase support to Iraqi opposition groups and allowing the use of CIA and military special forces teams against Iraq.
The United States is capable of launching a rapid attack on Iraq by marshaling 50,000 troops at the Kuwaiti border in roughly a week, airlifting them in and bringing their tanks and heavy equipment on ships through the Strait of Hormuz, according to experts.
However, many U.S. officials and lawmakers believe 200,000 or more soldiers could be needed to topple Saddam, a force that would require months to move to the region.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.