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Ashcroft: War Justified Even Without Iraqi WMD

Associated Press | 26 Jan 2004

VIENNA, Austria Saddam Hussein's past use of "evil chemistry" and "evil biology" and the threats they posed justified the war in Iraq even if no weapons of mass destruction are ever found, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday.

Ashcroft, in Vienna for talks with top Austrian officials on measures to fight terrorism and drug trafficking and improve air travel security, told reporters that Saddam's arsenal remained a menace and was sufficient cause to overthrow his regime.

"I believe there is a very clear understanding that Saddam Hussein continued to pose a threat," Ashcroft said.

"Weapons of mass destruction including evil chemistry and evil biology are all matters of great concern, not only to the United States but also to the world community. They were the subject of U.N. resolutions," he said.

Ashcroft made the comments a day after David Kay, the outgoing top U.S. weapons inspector, pressed U.S. intelligence agencies to explain why their research indicated Iraq possessed banned weapons before the invasion.

On Sunday, Kay said he now believed Saddam had no such arms.

"I don't think they exist," Kay told National Public Radio. "The fact that we found so far the weapons do not exist - we've got to deal with that difference and understand why."

Although the White House has insisted that illicit weapons eventually will be found in Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently held open the possibility that they would not.

Calling terrorism "the antithesis of freedom," Ashcroft said that it remained a global menace and that "we see no nations as immune to the al-Qaida terrorist threat."

He addressed reporters briefly after meeting with Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, Interior Minister Ernst Strasser and Justice Minister Dieter Boehmdorfer. On Tuesday, he planned to meet with members of Austria's elite Cobra police commando unit.

Cobra officers have been flying undercover aboard select Austrian flights to the Middle East over the past 20 years. Austrian officials said Monday the unit would expand its training of U.S. air marshals.

The Bush administration plans to require all foreign airlines to put armed law enforcement officials on certain flights to the United States have drawn support and skepticism from European nations.

Britain and France are open to the idea of sky marshals, but Denmark, Finland, Portugal and Sweden have signaled they would prefer canceling flights to deploying armed guards on planes if there were a strong suspicion of an attack.

Pilot organizations in several countries also have expressed reservations about the deployment of armed marshals on their jetliners.

Strasser called Ashcroft's visit to Austria, the first by a U.S. attorney general since the 1980s, "a very clear signal that Europe and the United States want to cooperate very closely on matters of security."

"We share a sense of common destiny," Strasser said. Austrian police officers were among the first to help train Iraqi officers in Jordan, he said.
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