- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

LONDON Former President Bill Clinton yesterday urged the United States and Britain to "call Saddam Hussein's bluff" with a tough new U.N. resolution but said pre-emptive military action against Iraq could lead to "unwelcome consequences."
In a remarkable rebuke to his successor, George Bush, he said he was glad that Prime Minister Tony Blair would act as a restraint on the United States. He was scathing in his scorn for Mr. Bush's domestic program.
The former American president, who received what London newspapers called "a rapturous reception," was the keynote speaker at the British Labor Party conference in Blackpool. The harsh criticism of the president was unusual in that it was made on foreign soil.
"I can tell you that as an American, and a citizen of the world, I am glad that Tony Blair will be central to weighing the risks and making the call" on whether to go to war. "For the moment, the rest of us should support his efforts in the United Nations and until they fail, we do not have to cross bridges we would prefer not to cross."
Mr. Clinton said he agreed with those in the United States and Britain who "want to go through the United Nations to bring the weight of world opinion together" before a military attack on Iraq.
"I support the efforts of the prime minister and President Bush to get tougher with Saddam Hussein. I strongly support the prime minister's determination if at all possible to act through the U.N." However, he said, pre-emptive military action of the kind favored by the Bush administration would give Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "all the incentives" to use weapons of mass destruction.
"Pre-emptive action today, however justified, may come back with unwelcome consequences in the future." However precise the West's bombs and weapons might be, "when you set them off, innocent people will die."
Mr. Clinton told the delegates, many of whom have been hostile to Mr. Blair's support of the U.S. policy on Iraq, that Mr. Blair provided a valuable counterweight to hawks in the Bush administration.
On other issues, he accused the Republicans of a tax cut based on "ideology" and of declaring "war" on his environmental policies.
Mr. Clinton said that he disagrees with Bush administration policies on the Kyoto treaty, the International Criminal Court, the comprehensive test ban treaty and "on nearly everything" else.
"But we cannot lose sight of the larger issue," he said. "To build the world we want, America will have to be involved, and the best likelihood comes when America and Britain, when America and Europe are working together. I ask you to support [Mr. Blair] as he makes that effort."
Though stressing the need for international consensus, Mr. Clinton backed Bush administration demands for a new U.N. Security Council resolution on inspections to replace those put in place while he was in office.
"Saddam Hussein, as usual, is bobbing and weaving. We should call his bluff. The United Nations should scrap the 1998 restrictions and call for a complete and unrestricted set of inspections with a new resolution. If the inspections go forward, and I hope they will, perhaps we can avoid the conflict."
Many anti-war members in the Labor ranks who numbered hundreds of delegates, including scores of sitting members of Parliament said they had hoped Mr. Clinton might align himself with his former vice president, Al Gore, who last week ago became the highest-profile Democrat to attack Mr. Bush's plans for "regime change" in Iraq.
Still, those delegates got part of what they wanted in Mr. Clinton's insistence that the best route to a solution of the Iraqi crisis was through the United Nations. "We could reduce the future that we can build for our children if we respond to the challenges in the wrong way," he said of the threat posed by Saddam's suspected weapons of mass destruction.
"We must respond in a way that is consistent with the larger obligation we all have, to build a more integrated global community."
"Of course, we have to stand against weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Clinton said, "but if we can, we have to do it in the context of building the international institutions that in the end we will have to depend upon to guarantee the peace and security of the world."
He denounced the U.S. tax cut passed last year, saying of American conservatives: "Evidence shows that their ideology drove them to adopt an enormous tax cut heavily tilted to wealthy Americans before we had a budget, before we knew what our income was going to be, before we knew what our expenses were going to be, before we knew what our emergencies were going to be and September 11 turned out to be quite an emergency."
He said conservatives "declared war on all my environmental regulations."
"They even tried to relax the standard on how much mercury we could have in the water. I say this because you should be proud that you have stayed with what works, and you should stay with it."

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