LONDON – Lest America's allies forget, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is an "evil man" who will "wreak havoc" on the world if no one stops him, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said in an interview broadcast in Britain Thursday.
"This is an evil man who, left to his own devices, will wreak havoc again on his own population, his neighbors and, if he gets weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, all of us," Rice told BBC radio.
Speaking during an segment taped for a Sept. 11 anniversary special, Rice said that "there is a very powerful moral case for regime change."
"We certainly do not have the luxury of doing nothing," she said.
The Bush administration has been warning over the past few months that a military campaign may be necessary to oust Saddam, who is believed to be developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Iraq is prohibited from amassing weapons of mass destruction by order of U.N. resolutions following the 1991 Gulf War.
Weapons inspectors were sent in following the war to certify that no weapons were being developed, but the inspectors were prevented from entering the country in 1998 and have not been back since.
"History is littered with cases of inaction that led to have grave consequences for the world," Rice told the BBC program "The Diplomatic Jigsaw."
"We just have to look back and ask," she said, "how many dictators who ended up being a tremendous global threat and killing thousands and, indeed, millions of people, should we have stopped in their tracks?"
Polls in Britain suggest that not much support exists there for an attack. A London Telegraph poll on Monday found that only 28 percent of Britons thought that the United States would be justified in taking such action, while 58 percent disagreed.
If the United States does strike, only 19 percent of respondents thought that Britain should become involved, the Telegraph poll concluded.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has expressed support for some type of U.S.-led operation to oust Saddam -- who Rice said "shoots at our planes, our airplanes, in the no-fly zones where we are trying to enforce U.N. security resolutions" -- but support within the British political establishment is shaky.
Gerald Kaufman, a lawmaker from Blair's governing Labor party, said in an article published Thursday in the Spectator magazine that there was broad opposition in Parliament to a strike against Iraq.
"Tony Blair would find it difficult to support and participate in a war against Iraq whose majority in the House of Commons was provided by the [opposition] Conservatives," Kaufman said.
Kaufman said "hawks" in the U.S. administration were giving the president poor advice.
"Bush, himself the most intellectually backward American president of my political lifetime," Kaufman wrote, "is surrounded by advisers whose bellicosity is exceeded only by their political, military and diplomatic illiteracy."
Rice countered that going after Saddam is a means to prevent further terror attacks such as those committed by Al Qaeda.
"Clearly if Saddam Hussein is left in power doing the things that he is doing ... this is a threat that will emerge, and emerge in a very big way," Rice said.
Rice rejected criticism that any action against Iraq would worsen the situation in that country and said the West would improve life for ordinary Iraqis.
"I would think that at the end of any action that we might take toward regime change, it would be an obligation for all of us to make certain that things are better for the people of the country and the people of the region," she said.
Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser to the first President Bush during the Gulf War, wrote in Thursday's Wall Street Journal that battling Al Qaeda and Saddam at the same time might not be wise.
"The central point is that any campaign against Iraq ... is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism," Scowcroft wrote. "Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time."
Menzies Campbell, foreign-affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrat party, not part of the current British government, said Rice's arguments for removing Saddam did not stand up under international law.
"In international affairs it is not enough to claim a moral authority in cases where the United Nations has been involved," he said.
"There will be no world order if the most powerful states are entitled to remove other governments at will," Campbell added. "There is no doctrine of international law which justifies regime change."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.