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NY Times: Powell says "US argument is with Hussein not the Iraqis".. Policy Shift in the Making?

Powell says U.S. argument is with Hussein not Iraqis
Powell, Bush Sr. Honor Gulf Vets


(AP) Secretary of State Colin Powell and former President George
Bush attend a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of Kuwait's
liberation from Iraqi occupation.


Filed at 12:40 p.m. ET

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- In a potential policy shift, Secretary of State
Colin Powell will recommend to President Bush an easing of curbs on export
of civilian goods to Iraq to make sanctions more palatable in the Arab
world, a senior U.S. official said Monday. 

Even some goods that conceivably could be useful to the Iraqi military --
such as water pumps and refrigerators that now are controlled -- may be
exempted from the sanctions, which have been a bedrock of a tough U.S. 
policy toward Iraq for more than a decade, the official said. 

Powell, finishing a quick trip to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, was
meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Farouk
al-Sharaa to discuss Iraq sanctions and Mideast peace efforts. 

At a stop in Kuwait City earlier, Powell pledged that ``freedom will live
and prosper in this part of the world'' in spite of Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein, whose forces were driven from Kuwait 10 years ago. 

``Aggression will not stand,'' Powell said as he joined former President
Bush and Norman Schwarzkopf, the U.S. commander in the Gulf War against
Iraq, in honoring the 148 Americans killed in combat in the 1991 conflict. 

Arab sentiment has been rising against the sanctions as falling heavily on
Iraqi civilians. Powell found this concern echoed by Arab leaders in his
first extensive trip to the region and will suggest the modifications to
Bush after he returns home Tuesday night, said the senior U.S. official,
speaking on condition of anonymity. 

Still, a decision may take some time, although the aim is to reach one
before an Arab summit scheduled for late March in Jordan. 

The official said the United States would concentrate sanctions on
military equipment, denying Saddam material to rebuild weapons. At the
same time, he said, the United States would like to relax curbs on
civilian goods.  Overall, he said, the Bush administration found it had to
make a better case for its Iraq policy to the world. 

While the United States can act on its own, the administration intends to
consult with Russia, China, Britain, France, and, again with Arab
governments, the official said. 

Iraqi officials also were holding talks Monday and Tuesday at the United
Nations to make plea for ending economic sanctions. 

Powell flew to Syria from Saudi Arabia and earlier made stops in Egypt,
Jordan and Kuwait. The secretary of state, in his fast-paced trip, found
general agreement in the Arab world that Saddam has to be controlled and
Powell was pleased with the reaction, the official said. 

The Bush administration has information that suggests Syria was importing
Iraqi oil outside the U.N. sanctions regime, but the U.S. official did not
say how much. It is an issue Powell was expected to take up with President

The Syria media, in advance of Powell's arrival, accused the Bush
administration of a ``double standard,'' leaning heavily on Iraq while
declining to get tough with Israel. Still, the U.S. official said, there
were signs of change since Assad succeeded his father last July. 

The new Syrian president talks about reforming the economy, has done
positive work with Syria's banking system, and is looking more to the
world outside Syria, the official said. 

In Kuwait, Powell joined officials in laying a wreath at the U.S. Embassy
in tribute to the Americans who helped reverse Iraq's annexation of its
smaller, oil-rich neighbor. 

``The use of force was moral,'' former President Bush said under bright
skies to an audience that included hundreds of U.S. troops on duty to
protect Kuwait from Iraqi threats. 

The former president said he did not know if his son, President Bush, will
send more troops here. But, he said, ``the United States will never let
Kuwait down.''

Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the U.S. 
mission as one of combatting evil. 

``We want the world to know our quarrel is not with the people of Iraq. It
is with the regime in Baghdad,'' he said. 

Powell's rhetorical campaign against Saddam was sweet music here. Kuwait,
having felt the sting of Saddam, has kept its distance from Arab
sentiments against U.N. sanctions against Baghdad. 

``This was a guy who invaded a country that was not doing anything to
him,'' Powell said Sunday as he condemned the Iraqi leader as a dictator
who has been stripped of his ``stings'' by the Gulf War and world pressure
in the years afterward. 

On Sunday, Powell had endorsed a Palestinian demand by urging Israel to
lift an economic ``siege'' of the West Bank and Gaza as soon as possible. 

The constraints, which include a ban on Palestinian workers going to their
jobs in Israel and the withholding of tax revenues, do nothing to improve
the security situation, Powell said after a two-hour meeting with Yasser
Arafat at his headquarters. 

Israel, in an effort to stem attacks on its soldiers and civilians, is
using economic pressure as well as firepower. Peace talks have been
shelved, and Powell said it will be a long time before they resume. 

Before seeing Arafat, Powell met Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem but evidently
was unable to persuade Israel's incoming prime minister to ease that
pressure.  Still, Powell said the Bush administration's commitment to
Israeli security was ``rock-hard.''

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