- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

UNITED NATIONS President Bush demanded today that world leaders force Saddam Hussein to destroy his weapons of mass destruction, saying the lives of millions of people will be at risk and the United Nations "will be irrelevant" unless it confronts Iraq.

"The just demands of peace and security will be met or action will be unavoidable," Mr. Bush warned. "And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power."

"We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather," Mr. Bush told the U.N. General Assembly. "We must stand up for our security and for the permanent rights and hopes of mankind."

Mr. Bush made his case against the backdrop of widespread hesitation among U.S. allies and American lawmakers to use force against Baghdad. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan cautioned the United States against taking action on its own without Security Council backing.

Mr. Annan said efforts to persuade Iraq to comply with resolutions calling for weapons inspections and disarmament must continue, but if Iraq is defiant the Security Council "must face its responsibilities," he said.

Speaking before Mr. Bush, Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Lafer, reflected the concerns of most nations, saying "force can be used only through the Security Council and if other means are exhausted."

But Mr. Bush argued that extended diplomacy would mean betting the lives of millions in a reckless gamble. "And this is a risk we must not take," he said.

Mr. Bush's stance also has been questioned in Congress.

But after his speech, a key House Democrat applauded it as "a positive step."

"There are many questions about going to war, but I commend the president for the speech that he made today, the values that he presented, the commitment of the United States that he brought to the U.N," Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, a member of the Democratic Party leadership and the House intelligence committee, told CNN.

Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle said he did not think "the case for a preemptive strike has been made yet." But the South Dakota Democrat acknowledged that Mr. Bush continues to make his argument, "and I think that was helpful."

In his speech, Mr. Bush said, "Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test … and the United Nations, a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced … or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding … or will it be irrelevant?"

Mr. Bush offered to work in concert with other nations on a resolution "to meet our common challenge." And, he said, "if the Iraqi regime defies us again the world must move deliberately and decisively" against the Iraqi leader.

Mr. Bush's expression of willingness to act through the United Nations appeared to respond to a growing chorus of opposition to unilateral U.S. military action to topple Saddam.

"By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand," the president said. "Delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand, as well."

A senior U.S. official said Secretary of State Colin Powell would work tomorrow with the four other permanent members of the Security Council Russia, China, France and Britain on a resolution that would set a deadline for Iraq to comply with demands that it admit weapons inspectors.

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