Jeffords says Bush’s timing may be driven by elections

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(Host) Senator James Jeffords says it’s critical for the United States to get the support of the United Nations before launching any military action against Iraq. Jeffords also believes the Bush administration may be keeping the matter in front of the public as a way to enhance Republican chances in November’s congressional elections.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Later this week the U.S. Senate is expected to consider a resolution authorizing the president to take military action against Iraq. The exact wording of that resolution is being debated by Senate leaders.

The Republican leadership wants to give the president rather broad language to take those actions that he deems are necessary to protect national security, while the Democrats want to narrow the scope of the resolution. Senator James Jeffords, who is the only independent member of the Senate, is joining with many Democrats on this issue.

Jeffords says weapons inspectors from the United Nations must be given an opportunity to do their job. If Iraq denies these inspectors access to key locations, Jeffords says the United Nations should consider military action:

(Jeffords) “I still would rather see it done through the UN, until such time that there is an imminent threat. But there’s no indication that the weapons are available to that extent and will be. And nor is there evidence that they could somehow launch those weapons to put us in danger.”

(Kinzel) Jeffords also thinks the Bush administration may be using the crisis with Iraq for its own political gain. Jeffords says the administration’s preoccupation with Iraq just weeks before the Congressional election is very suspect:

(Jeffords) “I’m just concerned about the timing and where we are right now. And with the concentration on Iraq with – to me, no change in the kind of threat and the timing – is a little bit suspicious to me. That it’s coincidental with other thoughts they have in mind.”

(Kinzel) Jeffords expects that the Congress will vote on a narrowly focused Iraq resolution before lawmakers leave Washington at the end of next week.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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