January 4, 2009 / 4:43 PM / 11 years ago

Cheney: U.S. close to achieving its goals in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Jan 4 (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said on Sunday the United States was close to achieving its aims in Iraq.

Interviewed on CBS’s "Face the Nation," Cheney offered another spirited defense of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, of which he was a key proponent and architect.

"We are close to achieving most of our objectives. We have a significant reduction in the overall level of violence," said Cheney, who leaves office on Jan. 20.

He also cited the removal of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the new Iraqi constitution, the Iraqi elections, and a recent framework agreement providing for a U.S. military withdrawal by 2011 as successes.

"All of these things by anybody’s standards would be evidence of significant success," Cheney said.

In a series of farewell interviews, Cheney has been defending the decision to invade Iraq and the subsequent U.S. occupation which led to the deaths of over 4,000 U.S. servicemen and women.

There is no official count of Iraqi civilian casualties since the invasion but some independent studies have put the number in the hundreds of thousands.

Cheney acknowledged that prewar intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction were wrong. But he again argued that Saddam had the technology, the personnel and the desire to build such weapons again.

Seen possibly as the most powerful Vice President in U.S. history, Cheney was widely seen as President George W. Bush’s most important adviser who helped shape the "war on terrorism" after the Sept. 11 attacks.

(Reporting by Alan Elsner, Editing by Sandra Maler)

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