- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 29, 2002

President Bush says congressional leaders are nearing bipartisan agreement on a resolution authorizing military action against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
"We're moving toward a strong resolution authorizing the use of force, if necessary, to defend our national security interests posed by Saddam Hussein," the president said yesterday in his weekly radio address.
"We're making progress. We are nearing agreement, and soon we will speak with one voice," Mr. Bush said.
Meanwhile, Iraq defiantly rejected a U.S.-British plan yesterday for the United Nations to force Saddam to disarm and open his presidential palaces for weapons searches, warning that Baghdad would stage a fierce defense if the allies attacked.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz also said the United States would suffer losses "that have not been sustained for decades" if it sought to topple the Iraqi leader.
Ignoring the Iraqi rejection, the United States and Britain lobbied for Russian and French support for a tough new U.N. resolution, which would call on Iraq to reveal all materials relating to weapons of mass destruction and to give U.N. weapons inspectors unfettered access to presidential sites. The draft resolution would give Iraq one week to accept demands to disarm and 30 days to declare all of its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.
If Saddam fails to comply, the resolution would threaten the use of "all necessary means" against him, U.S. officials told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
But France and Russia, both of which hold veto power on the U.N. Security Council, showed no signs of agreeing to the U.S.-British proposal. The Russians and French, as well as the Chinese, oppose adopting a resolution threatening force before inspectors are able to return to Baghdad.
As the White House continues to push for tough U.N. action, House and Senate leaders of both parties are guiding work on the congressional resolution. Interviewed yesterday on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields," Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, echoed Mr. Bush's optimism about reaching a bipartisan agreement.
"It's a very serious issue. We need to give the president this authority, and I believe we will do it with a very broad bipartisan vote for a resolution in both the House and the Senate," Mr. Lott said.
He said he is working closely with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, to try to hammer out a resolution that "gives the president the authority he needs" to use military force against Iraq, while addressing concerns raised by Democrats and some Republicans.
The announcement yesterday of bipartisan progress on a congressional resolution followed a week when some leading Democrats escalated their attacks on Mr. Bush's policy toward Iraq. Former Vice President Al Gore in two speeches criticized the possible use of unilateral U.S. military action to oust Saddam. Mr. Gore also denounced the administration's civil liberties record in the war on terrorism.
Mr. Daschle, in an emotional speech earlier this week on the Senate floor, accused Mr. Bush of politicizing the debate over Iraq and homeland security.
In his radio address, the president said he met Thursday "with Democratic and Republican members of Congress to discuss the threat posed by the Iraqi regime."
"The security of our country is the commitment of both political parties and the responsibility of both the president and the Congress," Mr. Bush said. "We are united in our determination to confront this urgent threat to America."
The White House hopes that passage of a congressional resolution authorizing force against Saddam will stimulate the U.N. Security Council to pass a tough resolution aimed at disarming Iraq.
"By passing this [congressional] resolution, we will send a clear message to the world community and to the Iraqi regime the demands of the United Nations Security Council must be followed: the Iraqi dictator must be disarmed. These requirements will be met, or they will be enforced," Mr. Bush said.
The latest White House proposal removes a phrase in its original draft that would have given the president authority to use force to ensure peace and security in the Middle East. Prominent Democrats and some Republicans said the wording was too broad.
"I think, in the end, you will have an overwhelming vote to give the president the authority he needs without saying, 'Oh, he can do anything in the whole region,'" Mr. Lott said.
Iraq announced Sept. 16 that U.N. weapons inspectors could return unconditionally under previous U.N. resolutions. But Iraqi officials have said they would reject any new Security Council demands.
"Our position on the inspectors has been decided, and any additional procedure is meant to hurt Iraq and is unacceptable," Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said yesterday.
Mr. Aziz, meanwhile, warned that the United States would suffer major losses if it invades Iraq.
"Any aggression on Iraq will not be a picnic. Instead, it will be a fierce fight where America will suffer losses that have not been sustained for decades," Mr. Aziz said. "Iraq is determined to resist and defeat any U.S. attack."
Mr. Aziz accused "Zionist circles" in Britain and the United States of pushing the two nations into war against Iraq to serve Israel. The Americans and the British, he said, "are trying to redraw the map of the Arab region in order to control its resources."
The White House yesterday criticized the Iraqi position.
"It's clear that Saddam Hussein wants to drag his feet so he can build up his arms," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday while traveling with the president in Texas. "This is not a matter to be negotiated with Iraq. This is a matter of whether the United Nations is willing to stand up to Iraqi defiance."
U.S. officials said the draft U.N. resolution gives inspectors the right to designate no-fly and no-drive zones in Iraq. U.S. and British warplanes now patrol no-fly zones in Iraq's north and south.
The resolution also would nullify a 1998 agreement between U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Saddam that prevents inspectors from springing surprise checks at eight presidential sites, which encompass a total of about 12 square miles and include several palaces.
The resolution envisions ending the Iraqi practice of assigning government guides to accompany inspectors moving through the country. It also would detail Iraq's violations and specify what actions Baghdad must take to correct them, including the "complete destruction" of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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