- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) — President George W. Bush said Friday his administration's policy of strictly containing Iraq changed completely following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and was replaced by pre-emption to protect the country and world from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

Prior to the terrorist attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives, the administration was working on a stricter, more targeted economic sanctions regime, he said.

"The strategic view of America changed after September the 11th," Bush said. " We must deal with threats before they hurt the American people again. And as I have said repeatedly, Saddam Hussein would like nothing more than to use a terrorist network to attack and to kill and leave no fingerprints behind.

"Actually, prior to September the 11th, we were discussing smart sanctions. We were trying to fashion a sanction regime that would make it more likely to be able to contain somebody like Saddam Hussein. After September the 11th, the doctrine of containment just doesn't hold any water, as far as I'm concerned."

Bush's statement came late Friday in a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair following key discussions on strategy in dealing with Iraq and the possibility of war.

Blair, Washington's staunchest ally on Iraq, has indicated he would like a second U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize a military campaign to disarm Baghdad of chemical and biological weapons if Saddam doesn't reverse course, comply completely with international mandates and voluntarily disarm.

The position, slightly at odds with Washington's earlier stance, comes amid rising opposition to war by the British public and by members of Blair's own Labor Party.

In what appears to be a victory for Blair, Bush Friday indicated he was not adverse to efforts to gain a second resolution, by added that the United States wanted the matter settled in "weeks, not months."

"This is a matter of weeks, not months," Bush said. "Any attempt to drag the process on for months will be resisted by the United States.

"So, first of all … this just needs to be resolved quickly. Should the United Nations decide to pass a second resolution, it would be welcomed if it is yet another signal that we're intent upon disarming Saddam Hussein. But (Resolution) 1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution.

"And Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm, for the sake of peace, we, along with others, will go disarm Saddam Hussein."

The Bush administration contends that Security Council Resolution 1441 allows for forcible disarmament of Iraq if it fails to cooperate completely with U.N. weapons inspectors and verify its divestment of chemical and biological arms it was known to possess in the late 1990s in violation of earlier international agreements.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has reported Iraq is not fully complying with its promise and has failed to account for missing weapons. Blix, however, has asked that inspectors — who returned to Iraq two months ago following the U.S. lobbying campaign on the resolution — be given more time to conduct operations.

"Saddam Hussein is not disarming. He is a danger to the world. He must disarm," Bush said Friday. The Iraqi leader was playing a game of hide-and-seek with the inspectors, he added, and its new call for talks with Blix to improve cooperation was nothing more than a "charade" to buy time.

Both Bush and Blair linked the Iraq standoff with the war against terrorism.

"I have absolutely no doubt at all that unless we deal with both of these threats, they will come together in a deadly form," Blair said following his meeting with Bush. "We know after September the 11th? We know that these terrorists' networks would use any means they can to cause maximum death and destruction. And we know also that they will do whatever they can to acquire the most deadly weaponry they can."

Bush said: "As the prime minister says, the war on terror is not confined to just a shadowy terrorist network. The war on terror includes people who are willing to train and to equip organizations such as al Qaida."

Earlier this week, the White House said it was entering into the "final" diplomatic phase, and it would be a matter of "weeks, not months" before Washington makes its decision on whether or not to use the more than 130,000 troops who are flowing into the Gulf.

The United States is concerned attempts to gain a second U.N. resolution would not only take time — and possibly hinder weather-affected military operations — but also faces possible defeat. France, a veto-powered member of the Security Council, is adamantly opposed to military force. Also objecting and holding veto power are China and Russia.

Secretary of State Colin Powell will appear next Wednesday before the Security Council and present new information and intelligence that the White House hopes will bolster its argument of Iraqi deception and non-cooperation and also strengthen its assertion that Baghdad indeed possesses contraband weapons.

On Feb. 14, inspectors are expected to give another report on Iraqi cooperation with their operations.

Bush on Thursday called the leaders of Portugal and Sweden as part of the final diplomatic campaign and also met with Italy's prime minister and Saudi Arabia's foreign minister.

Blair Thursday joined seven other European nations in signing a joint letter published in European newspapers calling for Iraq to disarm and supporting Washington's stance on force if necessary.

Recently he said that though he favored a second U.N. resolution before any action was taken, he was opposed to any unreasonable veto of it by France or others.

Despite wide opposition worldwide to a possible military campaign against Iraq, Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Richard Armitage told Congress Thursday that 21 countries were prepared to help in it to varying degrees, including use of its airspace for overflights by U.S. military aircraft.

A delay of several weeks while the Security Council wrestles with the question of a second resolution explicitly authorizing force could actually benefit the United States. Although there are tens of thousands of troops already in the Gulf, it will take several more weeks before a full, robust invasion force is in place.

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