- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

BOSTON President Bush yesterday said that if the United Nations does not deliver a strong resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the United States "will lead a coalition to disarm this man."
The pledge came as the White House announced that the president will deliver a prime-time speech from Cincinnati on Monday to inform Americans about the threat posed by Saddam and to influence the debate in Congress on his proposed resolution to use force in Iraq.
Speaking yesterday to supporters at a fund-raiser for Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney, Mr. Bush said the United Nations risks becoming irrelevant if it does not pass a new resolution demanding that Baghdad disarm or face the consequences.
"[If Saddam Hussein continues to lie and deceive, the United States will lead a coalition to disarm this man before he harms America and our friends," said Mr. Bush, who previously has focused his comments to how the United States will respond forcefully with or without U.N. support.
But as Congress nears a vote next week on its own resolution and with some top Democrats continuing to call for the administration to build stronger international support the president seemed to used the term "coalition" to placate critics.
"The military is not my first choice, but peace is. Peace is my first choice," he said.
The president said Congress next week "will be having a big debate on a really important, historic resolution. I welcome the debate. This is not a political debate. It's a debate about peace and security.
"But I also think it's a debate about responsibility for those of us who've been given high office. I believe we have a responsibility to speak clearly, to defend that which we hold dear, to be determined. And by doing so, we can achieve peace," Mr. Bush said.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate debated a resolution authorizing Mr. Bush to use military force against Iraq, with Republicans lining up with the White House.
Speaking in favor of the administration-backed resolution were Republican Sens. John W. Warner of Virginia, George V. Voinovich of Ohio and Jim Bunning of Kentucky.
Mr. Voinovich said classified briefings have convinced him that the threat from Saddam is imminent.
"He is working as if his life depended on it to acquire nuclear weapons and deliver them," Mr. Voinovich said. "Do we doubt that terrorist groups would turn down the opportunity to get their hands on Saddam's weapons and use them against us?"
Mr. Bunning said the vote will be one of the most important that lawmakers cast in their careers.
"None of us wants war," Mr. Bunning said. "But the case against Saddam Hussein is clear. After September 11, we cannot afford to simply sit on our hands. I do not believe in the end you can negotiate with a madman. The time for inspections, diplomacy and delay has passed. It is time for us to be bold."
Democrats urged a more cautious approach, sponsored by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan, which would require U.N. approval for military action.
"I strongly believe that the test for Congress is to help the president lead and unite the world, and not divide it," Mr. Levin said. "The resolution that the White House supports authorizes the use of military force with or without world community support."
He said the measure supported by the president "tells the world that the United States is ready to go it alone."
Also speaking against the White House-backed resolution were Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia.
Mr. Kennedy said the United States "should not go to war against Iraq unless and until all other reasonable alternatives are exhausted." He said the first goal should be disarmament through U.N. weapons inspections.
"War should be a last resort, not the first response," Mr. Kennedy said.
The Senate will vote on Mr. Levin's proposal and other alternatives early next week, with final passage expected by Thursday. The House also is set to approve the White House plan on Wednesday or Thursday.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Mr. Bush will deliver a speech of about 20 minutes at 8 p.m. Monday from the Cincinnati Museum Center to lay out for the American people his case against Saddam.
"I think the country will benefit from an opportunity to hear the president reflect on the reasons that Saddam Hussein is such a clear threat to the United States," Mr. Fleischer said.
Mr. Bush will also have an eye on Congress when he delivers the speech to about 500.
"The president thinks that, as Congress begins the debate and as they're about to vote, that it's important and it's helpful to members of Congress in both parties for them to hear what the president thinks in the full fashion that a speech like this affords," the spokesman said.
A senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that any new ground broken by Mr. Bush on Monday will be rhetorical. The president intends to sharpen his indictment against Saddam and help answer questions being asked by many Americans.
Mr. Bush will explain why Saddam must be confronted now and how the showdown is such a unique threat to America, the senior official said.
In his speech yesterday, the president pressured Congress especially the Democrat-controlled Senate to complete work on a slew of legislation before it leaves Washington.
Mr. Bush called on both chambers to complete work on a terrorism-insurance bill, which both the House and Senate have passed. The bill is stalled in a conference committee, which the president said is preventing 300,000 Americans from getting jobs.

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