- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2003

President Bush yesterday said a second U.N. resolution on Iraq would be acceptable only if it led to disarming Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and vowed to block any attempt by the international community to delay Saddam's ouster for more than a few weeks.
"Should the United Nations decide to pass a second resolution, it would be welcomed if it is yet another signal that we're intent upon disarming Saddam Hussein," Mr. Bush said during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"But 1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution," he said. "And Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm, for the sake of peace, we, along with others, will go disarm Saddam Hussein."
Responding to news that Saddam has invited U.N. weapons inspectors to Baghdad for talks, the president said, "The idea of calling inspectors in to negotiate is a charade. The only thing he needs to talk to the inspectors about is, 'Here, I'm disarming.'"
"Saddam Hussein has had 12 years to learn how to deceive, and I would view this as more deception on his part," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Blair said it's important "we hold to the path that we've set out they have to disarm."
"If they don't do it through the U.N. route, then they will have to be disarmed by force," said Mr. Blair after meeting for three hours in Mr. Bush's private White House quarters.
Meanwhile, Turkey's top military and civilian leaders endorsed allowing foreign troops to be based in the country. The move could pave the way for U.S. troops to use Turkey as a base against Iraq.
The decision by Turkey's powerful National Security Council also called for government and parliamentary approval for sending Turkish soldiers abroad.
The United States is reported to have asked Turkey for permission to base 80,000 soldiers in Turkey to open a northern front against Iraq. Turkish officials have asked Washington to scale back its request. Newspapers have speculated that Turkey could agree to the stationing of as many as 20,000 U.S. troops.
Top U.N. arms inspectors yesterday said they would not agree to new talks in Baghdad unless Iraq demonstrated more cooperation and met unspecified conditions. One hinted it might be necessary to meet Saddam himself to resolve the crisis.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. nuclear agency, and chief inspector Hans Blix were invited Thursday by the Iraqis to return there for talks before their crucial Feb. 14 report to the U.N. Security Council.
In New York, Mr. Blix said he and Mr. ElBaradei would spell out conditions for a new meeting in a joint letter, which was sent to Iraq's U.N. Mission last night. Mr. ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iraq must remove major obstacles, allow inspectors to interview scientists in private and agree to overflights by U-2 surveillance planes.
"We need to make sure before we go that they are ready to move forward … on these issues," Mr. ElBaradei told reporters in Vienna, Austria.
Despite Iraq's denials, the United States and Britain insist the Iraqis are hiding banned weaponry. The United States alone has marshaled nearly 90,000 land, sea and air forces in the Gulf region and the number is likely to double within two weeks.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Iraq's foreign minister claimed the United States in its "feverish desire to launch war" might use its "technological superiority" to plant evidence that Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
Foreign Minister Naji Sabri also demanded that the United States present proof that Iraq was still holding banned weapons.
Mr. Bush, in addition to warning Saddam "not to string the inspectors along," made clear that the U.N. Security Council does not have much time to throw its support behind America for a showdown with Iraq.
"Any attempt to drag the process on for months will be resisted by the United States," the president said. "This just needs to be resolved quickly."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell will make a final presentation of evidence against Saddam to the Security Council on Wednesday. That amounts to the final, pre-war consultation envisioned in U.N. Resolution 1441, which was passed in November.
Mr. Bush reiterated that war with Iraq is imminent if Saddam does not disarm.
"This issue will come to a head in a matter of weeks, not months," he said before gesturing to Mr. Blair. "He's also said weeks, not months."
Mindful that Germany and France have balked at supporting a U.S.-led war, Mr. Blair expressed his support for the administration and urged other nations to live up to their global responsibilities.
"It's not just a test for the United States or for Britain; it's a test for the international community, too," said Mr. Blair, who is facing opposition for his tough stance at home. "And the judgment has to be, at the present time, that Saddam Hussein is not cooperating with the inspectors, and therefore, is in breach of the U.N. resolution.
"And that's why time is running out," he added. "What is essential is that in every respect, in every way, that we can mobilize international support and the international community."
The president left the impression that the evidence Mr. Powell will present to the Security Council next week will not be a quantum leap forward from what Mr. Bush himself has already cited.
"Well, in all due modesty, I thought I did a pretty good job myself of making it clear that he's not disarming and why he should disarm," Mr. Bush said. "Secretary Powell will make a strong case about the danger of an armed Saddam Hussein."
He added that Mr. Powell "will also talk about al Qaeda links, links that really do portend a danger for America and for Great Britain, anybody else who loves freedom."
On Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and three other top Democrats sent a letter to Mr. Bush requesting that Mr. Powell brief the Senate before he speaks to the United Nations.
Mr. Powell yesterday said, "This enemy is not an enemy you can deter. This is an enemy we must destroy."
Mr. Blair has earmarked 35,000 troops for the Persian Gulf, by far the largest commitment outside the U.S. force.
Thus far, Mr. Bush's diplomatic schedule is largely dedicated to leaders who support his views. He called Vaclav Havel, the outgoing president of the Czech Republic, yesterday and scheduled a meeting next week with Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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