- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2002

President Bush said yesterday the United Nations "should show some backbone" and confront Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's chronic defiance of its resolutions, warning the United States was prepared to act alone if necessary.
"Make no mistake about it. If we have to deal with the problem, we'll deal with it," Mr. Bush said in remarks at Camp David, Md., where he hosted Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who shares the president's view that the United Nations should not let Saddam continue to flout resolutions he signed after losing the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Mr. Berlusconi told reporters at the presidential retreat in Western Maryland that the United Nations "cannot continue to see its image undermined and its resolutions flaunted." Mr. Bush made that argument Thursday in a his speech at the United Nations and repeated it yesterday in his weekly radio address and in a press conference, where he introduced Mr. Berlusconi.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney echoed the president's pledge to strike Saddam alone, if necessary, in an interview on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields" yesterday. The remarks of the top two U.S. leaders showed that the administration is hardening its stance on its intention to eliminate Saddam and his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Cheney said it was "pretty clear" from Mr. Bush's speech to the United Nations "that we'd prefer to do this on an international basis with the approval and cooperation and support of other nations."
Mr. Cheney said Mr. Bush went to the United Nations because "he wants the U.N. to address and solve the problem.
"But if they don't, then the United States will be left with no choice but to do so. This is such an important problem that we will address it by ourselves if we have to," Mr. Cheney said.
The United States is trying to build international support to oust Saddam because of his refusal to comply with U.N. resolutions that required him to end production of weapons of mass destruction. Iraq kicked U.N. weapons inspectors out of the country in 1998, sparking the current crisis.
In the past two weeks, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other administration officials have stepped up the rhetoric about the need for possible military action against Iraq. They've cited intelligence reports that show Saddam has expanded his chemical and biological capabilities in the past decade and is close to developing a nuclear bomb.
"Should his regime acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year," Mr. Bush said in his radio address.
He also quoted remarks made by Richard Butler, former chief of the U.N. weapons inspection program, who has blamed Iraq's problems on Saddam's authoritarian regime.
"Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator, who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Butler said.
One option for dealing with this problem, which Mr. Bush outlined Thursday, would be for the U.N. Security Council to pass a tough new resolution requiring that Baghdad be subject to unconditional and unrestricted weapons inspections. But the president and other proponents of this measure, including British officials, insist the resolution would have to stipulate Saddam would be subject to military attack if he fails to comply. On Friday, Mr, Bush demanded that the resolution set a near-term deadline for Saddam's compliance.
On CNN, Mr. Cheney stressed that it won't be enough for Saddam to merely allow weapons inspectors back into his nation after a four-year absence.
"The test is going to be whether or not [the United Nations] can come up with an effective program to guarantee that he no longer has this [weapons] capability. He's going to have to give up his biological and his chemical weapons and his nuclear-weapons program. He's going to have to produce it, and he's going to have to destroy it," the vice president said.
He added that the test will be for Saddam to comply with all 16 resolutions the United Nations imposed on him as punishment for invading Kuwait in 1990. "The U.N. has a responsibility that has not been carried out. There's been no consequence for Saddam Hussein violating all of these resolutions," Mr. Cheney said.
The nation's second-in-command said the exact nature and content of the resolution to be offered "still is open to discussion." He said that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is working on the matter "aggressively."
Mr. Cheney declined to predict whether the resolution will get through the Security Council without a veto by either Russia or China. "I don't know yet [but] I think we'll make some progress. My guess is that there is support building out there now."
In the CNN interview, Mr. Cheney said he believes progress has come, in part, as a result of Mr. Bush's "very effective" speech. He praised the way Mr. Bush reminded U.N. members that they "have a lot at stake here; that their organization may become irrelevant if nations can ignore their resolutions with impunity."
Mr. Cheney said he expects a "lot of countries" will "want to sign on and support" the United States in its efforts against Saddam now that the president has shown he is "serious" about the issue.
At this time, Britain, Spain and Italy have said they would support using preventive military force against Iraq if Saddam refuses to relinquish weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi officials insist they do not have such weapons.
However, Mr. Berlusconi, who is considered one of Mr. Bush's staunchest allies in the war against terrorism, has also said military force should be used only if there is international agreement.
Mr. Berlusconi predicted yesterday that action would be taken against Iraq early next year if Baghdad continued to bar U.N. weapons inspectors.
He said he had told Mr. Bush that Saddam was "a pragmatic man" who, rather than risk a U.S. attack, would give in to United Nations' demands that arms inspectors return to Baghdad.
"However, if I should be proved wrong tomorrow and Iraq does not comply with the U.N., then I think one can think in terms of [action] in January or February," Mr. Berlusconi said at a news conference after meeting Mr. Bush at Camp David.
In other developments yesterday:
At the United Nations, Germany and Arab nations expressed deep misgivings about any war against Iraq. "We have to do everything to find a diplomatic solution," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told the General Assembly. He said he is afraid invading Iraq would destabilize the Middle East and undermine the war against terrorism.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the United Nations it must take decisive action against Saddam for defying its ultimatums. The United Nations' authority "has to be underpinned by the force of an army," Mr. Straw said, according to Reuters news agency.
Arab foreign ministers said they warned Baghdad of the need to comply with U.N. dictates. But "we find no justification for any military operation against Iraq," Omani Foreign Minister Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah told Reuters.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque yesterday condemned any attack on Iraq, saying it would herald a "century of unilateralism and the forced retirement of the U.N. organization."
In Baghdad yesterday, former U.S. Sen. James Abourezk told the Associated Press that the United States "will lose its moral standards" if it attacks Iraq without provocation. The one-time South Dakota lawmaker was part of a four-person U.S. delegation that went to Iraq to push for peace and a return of U.N. weapons inspectors. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, West Virginia Democrat, was also in the group.

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