- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2002

DENVER President Bush yesterday said he is "willing to give peace a chance" but that "now's the time" to disarm Saddam Hussein as details emerged of a draft U.N. resolution giving the Iraqi leader seven days to accept the demands.
"I'm willing to give peace a chance to work," Mr. Bush said at a GOP fund-raiser here. "I want you to know that behind the rhetoric of war is a deep desire for peace."
But the president made clear that the window of opportunity for peacefully disarming Saddam is closing. He reiterated his call on the United Nations to pass a resolution demanding that Saddam make good on his promises to give up all weapons of mass destruction.
According to a U.S. draft resolution that is expected to be circulated among U.N. Security Council members on Monday, Saddam will be deemed "in material breach" of all previous U.N. resolutions since 1991 and given an additional 30 days to make a full declaration of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
"I want the United Nations to work. I want [Saddam] to do what he said he would do," Mr. Bush said. "But for the sake of our future, now's the time.
"For the sake of your children's future, we must make sure this madman never has the capacity to hurt us with a nuclear weapon, or to use stockpiles of anthrax that we know he has, or VX, the biological weapons that he possesses," he added.
The remarks came as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell continued to press members of the U.N. Security Council to accept the resolution. Mr. Bush does not want negotiations over the draft to spill into negotiations with Baghdad.
"There's no negotiations, by the way, with Mr. Saddam Hussein. There's nothing to discuss," Mr. Bush said. "He can either get rid of his weapons, and the United Nations can act, or the United States will lead a coalition to disarm this man."
In his strongest criticism of the United Nations since raising the issue of Iraq, Mr. Bush called the world body "ineffective" because it has not enforced its existing resolutions against Saddam.
"For 11 long years, you have said one thing to the dictator in Iraq, and he has thumbed his nose," the president said. "For 11 years, you've allowed this man to lie and deceive about weapons of mass destruction, and you have not held him to account. And now is the time."
Responding to questions from The Washington Times, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the president's offer to "give peace a chance" was not a softening of his stance on Iraq. Mr. Fleischer pointed out that the president has never viewed military action as the first option.
Britain, a close U.S. ally and fellow permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, strongly supports Washington's effort to push a resolution effectively threatening Iraq with military action.
According to the resolution, a U.N. member state can use "all necessary means," such as the use of force, should Baghdad make "false statements or omissions" or otherwise not comply, Reuters news agency reported, quoting diplomats. Inspectors are to have access to all sites, including Saddam's eight palace compounds spread over 12 square miles. Security forces, expected to be guards rather than armed troops, will protect the inspectors.
Meanwhile, France, China and Russia the other three veto-wielding members yesterday remained steadfast in their view that weapons inspections by U.N. experts had to take place first.
French President Jacques Chirac resisted the diplomatic overtures from Washington and told President Bush in a telephone conversation that wide U.N. backing on disarming Iraq was the only way forward.
"The president also reiterated that France remains more than ever in favor of a two-step approach and that this is the view of the majority of the international community, given the seriousness of the decisions to be taken and their consequences," said Chirac spokeswoman Catherine Colonna.
France's approach involves two U.N. resolutions one on readmitting arms inspectors and a second one spelling out the consequences only if Baghdad does not let the inspectors work freely.
Russia said yesterday that any delay in the return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq would be "unforgivable," and China said a military attack without U.N. backing would have "incalculable consequences."
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said there was no clear proof in Britain's dossier published this week on Iraq that Baghdad had chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
Washington sent Marc Grossman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, to Paris and then on to Moscow, as part of its diplomatic drive.
Despite Mr. Grossman's talks with French presidential advisers and Foreign Ministry officials, Mr. Chirac's comments indicated that France's position had not changed.
"The objective is the rapid and unconditional return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq. A simple, firm resolution, which shows the unity and determination of the international community, could help on this front," Miss Colonna said.
Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, speaking after meeting French Premier Jean-Pierre Raffarin in Paris, said Beijing wanted Baghdad to comply with U.N. disarmament resolutions without restriction.
"At the same time, we have to respect Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Mr. Zhu said.
"If the weapons inspections do not take place, if we do not have clear proof and if we do not have the authorization of the Security Council, we cannot launch a military attack on Iraq. Otherwise, there would be incalculable consequences," he said.
Saddam agreed last week to allow in U.N. inspectors without conditions, but the United States, whose declared policy is to seek the Iraqi leader's removal, said he could not be trusted.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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