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Powell denies saudis knew war before him

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20 Apr 2004 03:21

Powell denies Saudis knew Iraq war plan before him
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Who knew what, and when did they know it?

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Saudi ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar bin Sultan and journalist Bob Woodward argued on Monday over whether Bandar was told of the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq two days before Powell was.

Woodward sparked the controversy in his book "Plan of Attack" which said Powell was out of the loop when President George W. Bush made the decision to invade.

The Washington Post journalist said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice-President Dick Cheney told Bandar of the decision in a meeting on Jan. 11, 2003, using phrases such as "you can take it to the bank" and "He (Saddam) is toast".

"That's silly because I participated in the development of the plan," Powell responded on Monday on the Sean Hannity radio show.

"I commented on the plan when it was being developed, and I knew when Vice President Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld and General (Richard) Myers were going to go brief Prince Bandar on a plan, a plan that I was intimately familiar with," Powell said.

But Woodward said on the CNN program "Larry King Live" that while Powell might have known of the plan, he was not told of the decision to implement it until after the Jan. 11 meeting with Bandar.

Bandar himself called the CNN program to take issue with Woodward, saying Cheney and Rumsfeld had told him only that war was possible.

"What he (Woodward) said is accurate. However there was one sentence that was left out," Bandar said. "Most of it was accurate except that I was informed that the president had not made a decision yet."

After Bandar's phone call, Woodward commented: "Going back to Nixon, I've heard all of them... This goes in the hall of fame of dodges and fishy explanations, I think it should get an academy award ... Congratulations, Bandar."

Powell, in his radio comments, also said he knew he would support a war if he failed to find a diplomatic solution at the United Nations.

"I knew that it might happen, and I knew that when he (Bush) took that second road, I'd be with him for the whole way. I don't quit on long patrols," Powell said

"I believe it was the right decision at the time (to go to war), and I believe it is the right decision now," he added.

The book has fueled election-year claims of rifts in the administration and that Bush was eager to invade Iraq despite warnings over an occupation that has turned out to be far more deadly for U.S. troops than the war.

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