INTERNATIONAL: New body in bid to shift opinion on Iraq

WASHINGTON: A team of US opinion leaders has joined forces in an effort to sway public opinion over Saddam Hussein, shifting concern away from the threat posed by his weapons, towards the threat posed by the man himself.

The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), spearheaded by Randy Scheunemann - a former national security adviser to Senate Majority Leaders Trent Lott and Bob Dole - boasts a number of influential members.

These include former Secretary of State George Shultz, Senator John McCain, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and retired 'drug czar' General Barry McCaffrey.

The CLI has received the White House's blessing, meeting with US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

Executive director Scheunemann, who also owns US government relations shop Orion Strategies, said: 'We came together to get a unique perspective out to the media. We want to get stories focused on what we see to be the real problem: not Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, but Saddam Hussein's regime.'

Alongside an intense media relations campaign in Washington and across the US, the CLI is encouraging members to hold country-wide lectures, creating opportunities to penetrate local media markets.

It is no coincidence that the CLI has come together just as United Nations weapons inspectors land on Iraqi soil for the first time since 1998.

'This story is now at the very top of the national debate, and every print, radio, and broadcast outlet is working on some element of the Iraq question,' said Scheunemann.

According to the CLI mission statement, the campaign will also look at long-term solutions, such as the 'reconstruction of Iraq's economy, the establishment of political pluralism, democratic institutions, and the rule of law'.

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