WASHINGTON - New House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi,
a liberal who has been at odds with President Bush on Iraq, pledged on Sunday
to support him if the United States goes to war in Iraq.
"Yes, I would support the president," the California Democrat responded on NBC's "Meet the Press" program when asked if she would back Bush even if he opted for military action without U.N. support.
Pelosi, who voted against the congressional resolution authorizing force in Iraq, stressed that she still believed a diplomatic approach was preferable to a military one, and if military action does become necessary, she thinks a multilateral response is preferable to a unilateral one.
But if U.S. soldiers are put in harm's way, "I certainly will support the action of the president," said Pelosi, who was elected this week to succeed Dick Gephardt of Missouri as the leader of the minority Democrats in the House. She is the first woman to head either party in Congress.
"I hope that it does not come to that," said Pelosi, who is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. She said she is very concerned that Iraq could use chemical or biological weapons on U.S. troops.
"I don't trust Saddam Hussein for one second. Let's be very clear, this is a person who does very evil things and he is a menace," she said. "But nonetheless we want to make sure that we can resolve this and show our greatness by resolving it diplomatically, rather than just showing our power by going in militarily."
She also declined to join in with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's comments last week questioning whether Washington has really made progress in the war on terror.
"What is enough? Enough is a guarantee that it won't happen again," she said, adding that "The war on terror is about more than Osama bin Laden."
Questioned several times about her liberalism, Pelosi stressed that she saw her role as unifying her party and developing consensus, not necessarily imposing her own views.
"The role of the leader is to build consensus in the party," she said. For instance, she personally opposes making Bush's tax cuts permanent, she said, but she will seek consensus among Democrats and evaluate economic proposals in terms of their fairness and whether they can create jobs and grow the economy.
Pelosi succeeds Gephardt, who is stepping down from the leadership after Democrats
unexpectedly lost seats in the Nov. 5 elections.
© 2002 Reuters Ltd