- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2002

DETROIT President Bush telephoned world leaders yesterday to rally them against Iraq as the White House bragged about putting some rhetorical "muscle" into a debate over Saddam Hussein that it said had been neglected during the Clinton administration.
"It's clear that both the Congress and the U.N. are returning to an issue that had not gotten sufficient attention in recent years," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters aboard Air Force One.
"And now some muscle looks like it's being put at least rhetorically into the deliberations of the world's leaders."
In New York, diplomats said they now expect the United States to support a new U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Iraq allow international inspectors unrestricted access to its suspected weapons sites.
Such a resolution is likely to be drafted by Britain, possibly in collaboration with France, the diplomats said. The work is not expected to begin until after the conclusion of the United Nations' annual General Assembly debate, which Mr. Bush will address Thursday.
"It's clear, from reading the papers and hearing comments from ministers, that people want to see this go through the U.N.," said one diplomat.
The Bush administration has long maintained that it does not need a new Security Council resolution to attack Iraq. But the decision to take that route appears to reflect a new understanding that the United States must work through international institutions to build support for such an attack.
Mr. Fleischer said the president's campaign for an international coalition against Baghdad is beginning to bear fruit, despite public expressions of skepticism from some world leaders.
"As a result of the president's consulting and of the president's reminding the world of Iraq's flagrant violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions, it does appear that a movement is budding to put some force to previous U.N. resolutions," he said.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Bush's closest ally against Iraq, will brand Saddam "an international outlaw" in a speech to British labor unions today.
"In the face of evidence that Saddam has chemical and biological weapons and evidence that he is continuing his efforts to develop nuclear weapons, we cannot stand by and do nothing," Mr. Blair will say, according to the advanced text of a speech to be delivered in Blackpool, England.
Yesterday, Mr. Bush telephoned leaders in Europe and the Middle East, including officials in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, and urged them to listen closely to his U.N. address. He is expected to use the occasion to make his most forceful argument for a change of regime in Iraq.
Several key allies, including Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and French President Jacques Chirac, have demanded U.N. endorsement as a condition to lend support for military action.
At the same time, the White House wants to maintain pressure on Congress to join Mr. Bush's call to thwart Saddam and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability.
This morning, the administration will expand the circle of lawmakers receiving classified information on Iraq, with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice briefing congressional leaders of both parties, including members of the armed services, foreign relations and intelligence committees.
Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said Mr. Bush's U.N. speech must "paint a very clear, forceful, humble picture defining the threat" to the world and the steps needed to end that danger.
"I don't think it's a time just to flex your muscle," Mr. Kerry said. "Up until now, the rhetoric has been way ahead of the public diplomacy."
But Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said Saddam presents "a clear and present danger" to the United States.
While analysts "vary as to how far" Iraq's weapons programs have progressed, Mr. McCain said, the Iraqi leader's history of intransigence is compelling.
"The violation of agreements he entered into is a salient argument," the senator said.
After initially accusing the president of failing to make his case against Iraq, some Democrats now appear alarmed that he has decided to heed their call just weeks before the midterm elections.
Political analysts of both parties agree that debates over national security tend to favor Republicans and overshadow talk of the troubled economy, which would favor Democrats. Although Democrats once embraced the idea of voting before the election on a resolution of support for the president's Iraq plans, some now want to wait until afterward.
In addition, Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota have complained that Mr. Bush has not presented new evidence that would justify an attack on Iraq. But, in 1998, when fellow Democrat Bill Clinton was president, Mr. Daschle and others in his party argued forcefully for action against Saddam because he was flaunting the same U.N. resolutions, which were already years old.
During a visit to Detroit, Mr. Bush did not specifically mention Iraq during a joint appearance yesterday with Mr. Chretien, although he made clear that rogue nations pose as much of a threat to Canada as they do to the United States.
"Mr. Prime Minister, this country is doing everything we can to address a common problem," said Mr. Bush, who was there to tout a program to strengthen borders against terrorists while speeding the flow of commerce between the two nations.
The leaders then met privately, and Mr. Bush pressed his case for attacking Iraq.
Although Canada has expressed reluctance to join in a military strike, its troops helped depose the Taliban in Afghanistan. Mr. Bush was careful to mention that yesterday.
"The Canadian people are deeply proud that our armed forces have fought side by side in defense of justice and freedom with American soldiers in Afghanistan," Mr. Chretien said during the appearance.
Mr. Bush returned to the White House to practice not only his U.N. speech, but also a 10-minute address to the nation that he will give tomorrow, the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The Statue of Liberty will serve as the backdrop at that address.
Dave Boyer and Betsy Pisik contributed to this report.

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