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Preemptive war still U.S. strategy option

WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) -- Preemptive military action against rogue states and other threats remains central to U.S. national security policy, the White House said Thursday.

"If necessary ... under long-standing principles of self defense, we do not rule out use of force before attacks occur, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy attack," it said.

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"When the consequences of an attack with (weapons of mass destruction) are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idly by as grave dangers materialize."

The statement was contained in a 40-plus page document called The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, a legally mandated exposition of administration thinking on U.S. strategic priorities and policy.

The review is supposed to be annual, but the one released Thursday was the first the Bush administration has issued since 2002, when the president placed pre-emptive war front and center in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States and the threat posed to the country by rogue states and weapons of mass destruction.

The 2006 document reiterates the importance of not disavowing possible preemptive military action, but also stressed a preference for diplomacy to eliminate threats posed by enemies with weapons of mass destruction.

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The Bush administration stood on the principle of preemptive war in its invasion of Iraq in 2003, although some have argued the invasion was a resumption of the 1991 conflict given Saddam Hussein's violation of agreements suspending that conflict.

Presumed Iraqi stocks of chemical and biological weapons, however, were not found and it appears he had no such stockpiles.

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