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Area lawmakers support attack

Most Tampa Bay lawmakers support an attack on Iraq.

Members of the region's congressional delegation say an attack is warranted because Saddam Hussein has defied the United Nations and refused to declare his weapons of mass destruction.

"He is cruel, he is vicious, he has murdered members of his own family," said Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Largo. "I believe time is up."

Most of the House members and senators representing the bay area last fall supported a resolution authorizing President Bush to attack. Their views haven't changed. They say Hussein still has powerful weapons he could use against the United States or its allies.

"I think Saddam Hussein is a menace and he needs to go," said Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat. "I do believe he has chemical and biological weapons, and I think he would have nuclear weapons if he could get his hands on them."

Rep. Adam Putnam, a Bartow Republican who represents eastern Hillsborough County, said "there is enough evidence now to support action to disarm Hussein and bring about a change in leadership."

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, said Hussein should be removed because "he is as dangerous as Hitler was."

She likened Hussein to a child who promises to clean his room. "You go in and the room looks clean. But all they have done is put it all under their bed."

Brown-Waite is so unhappy with France's opposition to the war that she will introduce a bill allowing families of U.S. soldiers buried in France in World War II to have their remains transferred to the United States.

Rep. Jim Davis, a Tampa Democrat who represents parts of St. Petersburg, wants the Bush administration to exhaust all diplomatic remedies before it attacks Iraq.

"I am still not convinced the threat is imminent," said Davis, who supported the war resolution last fall. "I think we still have time to try to pressure Saddam Hussein and try to build support among our allies."

But Davis said "the inspections cannot go on endlessly and they are are very susceptible to being manipulated by Saddam Hussein."

Florida's most vocal opponent of an attack has been Sen. Bob Graham, a presidential candidate who says U.S. military action in Iraq would distract from the war on terrorism. The three-term Democrat, who headed the Senate Intelligence Committee for the past two years, says the administration has put so much emphasis on Iraq that it has neglected other threats.

"We've gotten focused on the fact that Saddam Hussein is evil," Graham said Tuesday. "But the reality is that he is not the only evil in the Middle East or Asia."

Graham has warned that other terrorist organizations pose more serious threats to the United States than Iraq.

Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs, did not return phone calls for this story. He supported the war resolution last fall.

Despite his support for an attack, Nelson criticized the Bush administration for being too heavy-handed with other nations.

"They give the impression we are the schoolyard bully that is going to push its weight around," Nelson said. "Other nations don't react well to that."

But others say the administration has performed well under difficult circumstances.

"The truth is that George Bush would love to avoid military action with Iraq," said Young. "But he believes he has to prevent Iraq from being bigger and stronger than it is today."