- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (UPI) — President George W. Bush swooped into Florida Thursday in the role of commander in chief of U.S. military forces and urged reluctant allies to "show backbone and courage" in the face-off with Iraq and possible forced disarmament of the Baghdad regime.

The United Nations, he said, also had to decide whether or not its resolutions mean anything.

"Today the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons," Bush said. "These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror, mass murder. They could also give or sell those weapons to terrorist allies who would use them without the least bit of hesitation.

"That's the reality of the world we live in, and that's what we're going to use every ounce of our power to defeat.

"We have an obligation to protect America and the Americans. We understand our responsibility, and jointly we'll do just that — we'll protect America and our friends and allies from these thugs."

The United States, he said, would not be alone in that endeavor. Many nations of Europe have stepped forward to offer soldiers or other aid to a U.S.-led coalition in confronting Iraq.

Among those voicing support are Britain, Italy, Spain, Denmark and the new East European members of NATO, such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Longtime allies France, Germany and Belgium are adamantly opposed to forcible disarmament of Iraq and are actively trying to stall any U.S. military move.

Bush repeated his case against Iraq and its non-compliance with U.N. accords. He then said the international organization had to make the decision on whether or not its resolutions actually meant anything.

The challenge was a variation on others he has issued to the United Nations amid its seeming reluctance to take strong action against Iraqi defiance.

"I'm optimistic that the U.N. Security Council will rise to its responsibilities, and this time ensure enforcement of what it told Saddam Hussein he must do," Bush said. "See,

I believe when it's all said and done, free nations will not allow the United Nations to fade into history as an ineffective, irrelevant debating society.

"I'm optimistic that free nations will show backbone and courage in the face of true threats to peace and freedom," he added in what appeared to be a backhanded swipe at Paris, Berlin and Brussels.

The three Western European states have sparked a major split in the NATO alliance, blocking it from sending military aid to Turkey. Turkey, a fellow NATO member, had asked such aid to help protect it from retaliation by Baghdad over U.S. forces using Turkish territory in the event of war.

Following days of intense wrangling in Brussels by NATO officials, no way around the impasse has yet been found, although the United States and others could act on their own to help Turkey if the alliance did not live up to its obligations to a brother state.

The United States argues that Iraq is in violation of its promise to abide by Security Council Resolution 1441, passed last November and obligating Iraq to fully and completely disarm itself of contraband weapons of mass destruction as it had promised in 1991 at the end of the Gulf War.

The resolution also required Iraq to comply fully and completely with other related U.N. resolutions and cooperate fully with U.N. weapons inspectors.

Iraq and President Saddam Hussein has violated the resolution in fact and spirit, the United States says, and the Security Council must now act to authorize "serious consequences," including military force.

Iraq, it says, is continuing a 12-year game of deceit and deception.

In addition to France, Germany and Belgium, China and Russia are also opposed to a military campaign, saying weapons inspectors should be given more time to perform their operations.

About 130,000 U.S. troops are either in the Gulf region near Iraq or on their way. Washington says if the Security Council does not act, it will.

The Security Council was slated to meet Friday to hear a new report by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, who has criticized Iraqi foot-dragging in cooperation. In the newest report, it is expected he will note that an Iraqi missile program, with missiles that can travel farther than 150 kilometers, is in violation of previous disarmament mandates.

The administration has put the Security Council on notice: a second resolution authorizing force would be welcomed, but would not preclude U.S.-led coalition action to protect international security.

The time for further foot-dragging is over, it says.

Following his speech at Mayport, Bush sat down to lunch with sailors before returning to Washington.

Prior to Mayport, the president attended a forum in Jacksonville to promote his plan to boost a sluggish economy with tax-slashing provisions opposed by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

In the forum with small businessmen and employees of the company, Bush highlighted what he saw as the benefits in his 10-year, $674 billion economic growth proposal. The plan includes accelerated tax cuts and an increase from $25,000 to $75,000 in the amount small businesses can deduct from taxes for new equipment and other capital investments.

Greenspan has told Congress he opposes the accelerated tax cuts — originally set to take effect in 2004 and 2006 — unless they are income producing offsets for government revenue, especially at a time the nation faces war.

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