WASHINGTON - Some well-known conservative Republicans are joining moderate Democrats in an effort to build public support here and abroad for ousting Iraq's President Saddam Hussein.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, and retired Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat, are among the senior advisers for the newly formed Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.
The advocacy group, which has close ties to the Bush administration, is led by Randy Scheunemann.
Scheunemann is a former consultant to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Iraq issues and former national security adviser to Sen. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican and the incoming majority leader.
The new group recently opened offices on Capitol Hill and will formally launch its operations today.
Its stated mission is "to promote regional peace, political freedom and international security by replacing the Saddam Hussein regime with a democratic government that respects the rights of the Iraqi people and ceases to threaten the community of nations."
Citing Hussein's past attacks on its neighbors, use of weapons of mass destruction and support for international terrorism, the group has pledged to "engage in educational and advocacy efforts" to mobilize American and international support for "ending the aggression" of the Iraqi president.
Gingrich joined the group because "he believes there must be regime change" before Hussein acquires a new generation of dangerous weapons that could be smuggled into the United States, said Rick Tyler, spokesman for the former speaker.
Republican members of the new coalition include Bruce P. Jackson, a former vice president of Lockheed Martin and GOP activist, and George P. Shultz, who was secretary of state in the Reagan administration.
Prominent Democrats on the group's advisory board include Will Marshall, head of the Progressive Policy Institute.
"The point here is that there is bipartisan support for the proposition that Saddam Hussein is an odious tyrant of whom the world would be well rid," Marshall said.
He noted that the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq has many of the same participants as an earlier group, the Committee to Expand NATO, which supported the admission of former Soviet bloc countries into the U.S.-led alliance.
"I think the intention with this group is to do the same with Iraq policy and not to allow it to polarize around one party," Marshall said.