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Edwards disputes rice on Iraq invasion
Updated: 2004-10-11 11:44

Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards on Sunday disputed a White House assertion that it was right to topple Saddam Hussein even if he had no illegal weapons because he posed a future threat.

The North Carolina senator, appearing on several television news programs, said Saddam's intention to eventually gather weapons of mass destruction was one of dozens of such threats.

"There are lots of threats waiting to happen all over the world," Edwards said. "That doesn't mean that that justifies invading a country."

Edwards was responding to U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who told "Fox News Sunday" that President Bush was "absolutely" correct to have launched the invasion of Iraq even if they had known, as they do now, that the former Iraqi president had no stockpiles of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Saddam was "a major and growing threat to the international community" with "an insatiable appetite for weapons of mass destruction," Rice said.

"It was time to take care of him. And this president, post-September 11th, was not going to let threats continue to gather," she added. "It was only a matter of time."

The two continued a debate that has dominated the U.S. presidential campaign in recent weeks and intensified with the final report of chief U.S. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer, who concluded Iraq had no unconventional weapons -- a main rationale for going to war.

"You know, the Bush administration's explanation is: 'We invaded a country because at some point in the future they might get weapons of mass destruction?' ... I mean, the bottom line is, this is a convoluted logic to try to justify in hindsight what we now know wasn't true," Edwards said on CNN's "Late Edition."

Bush says his Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, agreed in the spring of 2003 it was the right decision to invade Iraq but now says it was the wrong war. Kerry has said repeatedly that Bush rushed to war without a strong coalition or a plan to win the peace.

"We did not authorize this president to make the mess that he has now made in Iraq," Edwards said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The first-term senator also noted that of the three countries singled out by Bush as part of an "axis of evil" -- Iraq, North Korea and Iran -- "you know, we invaded the one of those three that doesn't have nuclear weapons."

Edwards predicted the situation in Iraq, where a violent insurgency has raged for more than a year after Saddam was ousted, "and whether the president's going to level with people about that ... will drive the decision on November 2nd."

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