- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

NEW YORK President Bush yesterday attempted to shame the United Nations into action against Baghdad by hammering out a case that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's continued defiance threatens to make the world body as irrelevant as the League of Nations.
In a major speech before the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Bush laid out a comprehensive indictment of the Iraqi dictator for flouting U.N. Security Council resolutions with impunity for more than a decade.
"Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence?" the president said. "Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?"
A senior administration official, responding to questions from The Washington Times, denied that Mr. Bush was patronizing the General Assembly, which is often scorned by conservative Republicans.
"It's a wholly appropriate role for the American president I don't care what party he comes from," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It's a wholly appropriate role for the United States, as a member of this organization, to hold it to its highest standards."
Mr. Bush has been under pressure to enlist international support for his quest to oust Saddam. With many nations appearing unmoved by the dictator's continued defiance of U.N. resolutions, Mr. Bush wants the Security Council to draft and pass new resolutions that would serve as Saddam's final chance to avert attack.
But even if the United Nations complies, the White House is confident Saddam will ignore any new resolutions.
"Perhaps he will surprise us," the administration official said.
"You don't really believe that, do you?" a reporter countered.
"No, I don't," replied the official, prompting raucous laughter and applause from the press.
Still, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett said the president wants the U.N. resolutions passed quickly in weeks, not months.
To that end, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell planned to meet the other permanent Security Council members China, Russia, France and Britain today. He also will meet U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who cautioned against U.S. unilateralism in a speech to the General Assembly just minutes before Mr. Bush took the podium.
"For any state, large or small, to follow or reject the multilateral path must not be a simple matter of political convenience," Mr. Annan said. "There is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations."
Mr. Annan also drew attention to the "restraints" of multilateralism.
But the president made clear that he would oblige the secretary-general only if other nations agree to help disarm or depose Saddam. If such support is not forthcoming, Mr. Bush said he is willing to go it alone or with the help of Britain.
"The purposes of the United States should not be doubted," the president warned. "We must stand up for our security, and for the permanent rights and the hopes of mankind.
"By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand," he added. "And, delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand, as well."
In an effort to sell that argument, Mr. Bush took pains to portray the United Nations not as a bastion of anti-Americanism, but as an institution worthy of respect from all leaders, including Saddam.
"We want the United Nations to be effective and respectful and successful," he said. "We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime."
On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said, "I don't think that the case for pre-emptive attack has been made conclusively yet. That doesn't mean it can't be."
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, who said on Wednesday that he opposes a unilateral U.S. military attack, welcomed Mr. Bush's speech "as a powerful indictment, by the United Nations' own standards, of Saddam Hussein's contempt for the world."
The state-controlled media in Baghdad denounced the speech, saying Mr. Bush's stand on Iraq will throw the Middle East into turmoil.
"Regardless of the prattles delivered by Bush during his ignorant speech to the [U.N.] General Assembly, we say that Bush's evil whims to ignite a war under the pretext of combating terrorism reflects his irresponsible attitude to humanity," state-run Iraqi television said yesterday in a commentary. It did not carry Mr. Bush's speech.
In his 25-minute speech, Mr. Bush criticized Saddam for harboring terrorists, developing weapons of mass destruction and refusing to release or account for people missing since the 1991 Persian Gulf war, including U.S. Navy pilot Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher.
The U.N. speech carried unmistakable echoes of the president's address to a joint session of Congress almost a year ago, when he made the case for war against Afghanistan.
In both speeches, he spelled out five conditions the offending leader must meet to avert attack. Yesterday, Mr. Bush demanded that Saddam give up his weapons of mass destruction program, end support for terrorism, stop persecuting Iraqi civilians, halt illicit trade and release all Gulf war prisoners.
By stepping up pressure on the United Nations to take a tough stance against Saddam, the White House hopes to prompt Senate Democrats to do the same. Some Democrats are waffling on earlier pledges to vote before the November elections on a resolution of support for the president's call for action against Baghdad.
Mr. Bartlett complained that some in Congress and the United Nations are pointing fingers at each other to make the first move before living up "to their own responsibility."
"The U.N. doesn't need to look to the United States Congress to understand its obligation, if it wants to be a credible institution going forward," he said. "And the United States Congress doesn't need to abrogate its responsibility to the United Nations when it comes to their responsibility and obligation to speak on this important issue."
A senior administration official added: "It would be a real pity if the Congress were not to speak with one voice shortly here, because the president, having led now the United Nations to consider this issue, believes that he will be in a stronger position if he has spoken with the united voice of the executive and legislative branch."
The official added: "We don't want a situation in which the Congress is not acting and the U.N. is. That would make no sense whatsoever."
Meanwhile, by inviting the United Nations to join his cause, Mr. Bush gave fellow world leaders the chance to cooperate with his administration in ousting Saddam.
"Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger to suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence," the president warned. "To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take."


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