Politics - AFP

Defense Department number two called for Iraq attack in 2001

Date: Tue Mar 23, 2:55 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Pentagon (news - web sites) hardliner Paul Wolfowitz called for an attack on Iraq (news - web sites) in the days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) told an inquiry.

At a war cabinet meeting at the Camp David presidential retreat, four days after New York and Washington were hit by hijacked airliners, Deputy Defence Secretary Wolfowitz "presented the case" for action against Iraq, Powell said.

"Secretary Wolfowitz raised the issue of whether or not Iraq should be considered for action during this time," Powell told an official inquiry into the September 11 attacks.

"Secretary Wolfowitz was deeply concerned about Iraq being a source of terrorist activity."

But Powell added that President George W. Bush (news - web sites) decided that Afghanistan (news - web sites) should be the prime target as "it was clear to us at that point that al-Qaeda was responsible, the Taliban was harbouring al-Qaeda and that should be the objective of any action that we were to take."

Bush "did not dismiss Iraq, but said first things first. We will examine all of the sources of terrorism directed against the United States and the civilized world, but we'll start with Afghanistan."

The final decision to attack Afghanistan was taken on September 17, according to the secretary of state.

Powell said he could not remember whether Wolfowitz had proposed attacking Iraq instead of Afghanistan or parallel to any action against the Taliban-run country where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) had taken refuge.

The US action against Afghanistan started with air strikes on October 7, 2001.



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