Peoria Journal Star

February 6, 2003

Local lawmakers agree time running out
Durbin urges last-ditch peaceful resolution

By DORI MEINERT
of Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sen. Dick Durbin moved closer to supporting a war with Iraq on Wednesday after watching Secretary of State Colin Powell lay out evidence that Saddam Hussein is hiding weapons of mass destruction.

But the Illinois Democrat isn't completely on board yet.

"With . . . Powell's presentation to the U.N. today, we now have compelling, timely evidence of Saddam Hussein's deception, duplicity and efforts to thwart meaningful inspections," said Durbin, who last fall voted against a resolution to give President Bush broad authority to wage war against Iraq.

"Even with this evidence, the United States should not unilaterally launch an invasion of Iraq," Durbin said. "But make no mistake, time is running out for a peaceful resolution of this situation.

"A dangerous military confrontation can only be avoided if Saddam Hussein immediately reverses his course and cooperates fully with the U.N. inspection teams or abdicates as leader of Iraq," Durbin said.

The senator also urged the White House to send a coalition of Arab leaders to Baghdad this week "to make these realities clear to Saddam Hussein."

The Illinois congressional delegation split largely along partisan lines last fall when Congress voted to authorize President Bush to wage war against Iraq. All the state's Republicans voted in support of the war resolution, while all the currently sitting Democrats voted against it.

Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, said he still needs more information before he could support a decision to go to war.

"The American people still need to know what the impact of war will be and what it means in terms of cost and length of commitment," Evans said.

Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., said Powell "made a compelling case that Saddam Hussein continues to lie, cheat, evade and mislead the world about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs."

"I do not believe that war is unavoidable, but this cat and mouse game with Saddam Hussein cannot continue," Fitzgerald said. "Saddam can avoid war by reversing course and complying with international calls to disarm. If he does not disarm, and if the U.N. is unwilling to enforce its resolutions regarding Iraq, the United States must be prepared to act alone to protect its citizens."

Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, said Powell "made a strong argument" in support of Bush's contention that Hussein is harboring weapons of mass destruction.

"The tapes and reconnaissance photos Secretary Powell provided today further reinforce Hussein's proven track record of deceit in the international community," Johnson said.

Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, had no immediate comment.