- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

NEW YORK Foreign diplomats yesterday praised President Bush's pledge to work through the United Nations to deal with Iraq but acknowledged that his blunt challenge put the onus squarely on the international body to get results.
Recounting in detail Iraq's flouting of U.N. regulations and omitting any explicit reference to unilateral or pre-emptive U.S. military action, Mr. Bush appeared to have succeeded in putting the focus of the debate on the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the credibility of the United Nations.
"Now we have to press Iraq," said Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, a critic of unilateral U.S. action against Saddam. "If [the United Nations] doesn't deliver, it will be uncomfortable for some European countries not to support the United States."
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen said Mr. Bush's remarks were "a challenge to live up to our responsibilities. He was very clear on all the violations which we certainly have to take seriously."
"I guess we will have to choose among a lot of bad options, really," Mr. Petersen said.
Indeed, every speaker from the U.N. podium who addressed the issue directly yesterday echoed Mr. Bush's call for Iraq to comply fully with weapons inspections and other Security Council resolutions.
Even U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had earlier called the idea of military action against Baghdad "unwise," urged council members yesterday to take action or risk losing legitimacy.
"The existence of an effective international security system depends on the council's authority and, therefore, on the council having the political will to act, even [in] the most difficult cases, when agreement seems elusive at the outset," he said.
U.S. officials are going to discuss new measures against Iraq with foreign ministers and other dignitaries this week, several diplomats said, with the intention of drafting a strongly worded resolution.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is to explain the U.S. position to the ten elected council members in a meeting scheduled for this morning.
Foreign diplomats were quick to echo Mr. Bush's harsh critique of Iraq's record.
"We don't have any sympathy for the Iraqi regime," said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.
The Iraqi government "defies the authority of the Security Council, raises the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and, therefore, jeopardizes the stability of the region," he added. "We have to act legitimately, collectively and responsibly."
Asked if that meant authorizing military action to force compliance, he demurred. "We don't want to anticipate what people will do, or France would do in that situation. We will look at all the options."
Britain, which has been the Bush administration's staunchest ally in the debate over Iraq, praised the speech as "tough and effective," in the words of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. However, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the most vocal critic of Washington's plans, said he remained opposed to military action against Iraq in any form.
"Based on what I know [of the speech] and nothing has changed in my opinion Germany will not take part in any military intervention in Iraq under my leadership," Mr. Schroeder said at a political rally yesterday.
Iraq's top official to the United Nations immediately denounced the president's remarks.
Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri who sat impassively through the 15-minute speech dismissed it as a "series of fabrications" and said that Mr. Bush had offered no evidence to link Iraq to terrorism.
"I would have been pleased if the U.S. president had talked about his true motives behind his speech revenge, oil, political ambition, and also the security of Israel and targeting every independent state that would refuse to adhere to the American policy," Mr. Aldouri said.
But other Arab officials praised the thrust of Mr. Bush's remarks, saying they held out the hope that aggressive diplomacy through the United Nations, rather that military action, could resolve the standoff.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa welcomed Mr. Bush's call for new council action. Both Mr. Moussa and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani said it was possible Saddam would allow U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq.
"I think there is a hope that Saddam could accept the inspectors," said Sheik Hamad, in Washington this week for talks with top Bush administration officials after meeting Saddam in Baghdad late last month. "He is just worried that if he allows the inspectors in, the military action will be done anyway."
But former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, testifying before the House Government Reform Committee, warned that the United States must not get tied down by international commitments in dealing with Saddam.
"If a pre-emptive action will be supported by a broad coalition of free countries in the United Nations, all the better," Mr. Netanyahu said. "But if such support is not forthcoming, then the United States must be prepared to act without it."
The General Assembly opening ceremonies yesterday were conducted amid tight security. Sand-filled dump trucks and legions of police and security forces stopped cars and pedestrians from venturing close to the U.N. headquarters.
Every one of the two dozen speeches yesterday denounced the World Trade Center attacks and praised international efforts to thwart the growing threat of terrorism.
The U.S. address, which is always delivered to a full hall on the opening day, is one of the most heavily anticipated speeches in international diplomatic circles.
David R. Sands contributed to this report from Washington.

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