WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said yesterday that he was "concerned about the prospects of major rearmament of Iraq" after the Persian Gulf war and might seek international accords to prevent that country from rebounding as a military threat.
Mr. Cheney also reiterated that the administration would be prepared to consider a cease-fire only if President Saddam Hussein withdrew his occupation forces from Kuwait.
"We have no designs on Baghdad, no desire to damage unnecessarily the Iraqi nation," he said yesterday on Cable News Network's "Evans and Novak" show. But Mr. Hussein "has to know there is no sanctuary in Iraq for his forces."
Mr. Cheney said he would be "happy" if the half-million Iraqi troops believed to be entrenched in Kuwait "began to walk back to Baghdad, and left their tanks and their artillery and their armored personnel carriers right where they're at."
He said it was unlikely that the Iraqi army would be entirely defeated, since many of the more than 60 divisions were deployed outside the theater of war, in the northern and eastern parts of Iraq.
"I have to be concerned about the prospects of major rearmament of Iraq after this is over with," he said.
Those countries, such as the Soviet Union, that had helped Mr. Hussein develop his military power would "want to pause and reconsider whether or not that's a wise policy."
"We may well want to maintain some kind of international set of sanctions to deny him the capacity to rebuild that force," he said.
Mr. Cheney reiterated President Bush's assurance last week that U.S. troops would be withdrawn from the region as soon as they had accomplished their task. But the defense secretary did say that the United States might want to enhance its naval presence -- a deployment going back to 1949. This would have to be decided in conjunction with the Middle Eastern nations, he said.
In an earlier CNN interview, Vice President Dan Quayle said he doubted President Bush would at any time authorize the use of chemical or nuclear weapons against Iraq, "but you never rule any options out."