- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

President Bush yesterday said a new government in Iraq installed during a rebuilding phase in which the United States plays a role "as long as necessary, and not a day more" would serve as an example of freedom to other nations in the Middle East.
"The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder; they encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life," the president said. "A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom to other nations of the region."
Setting out a broad outline of the U.S. role in postwar Iraq, the president said a coalition of nations will destroy chemical and biological weapons, provide security "against those who try to spread chaos" and ensure that President Saddam Hussein is not replaced by another "brutal dictator."
As Mr. Bush sketched out those plans, his administration brushed off a compromise offered by Canada that would delay a U.N. Security Council vote on war with Iraq until the end of March. Administration officials expressed growing confidence that they can win a U.N. vote for military action by mid-March.
Capping a day of intense diplomatic negotiations and with one senior administration official saying "the door is quickly closing" on nonmilitary options Mr. Bush sought to dispel charges by Senate Democrats and other critics that the United States seeks to rule Iraq and control its huge oil reserves.
"We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more," he said. "We will seek to protect Iraq's natural resources from sabotage by a dying regime and ensure those resources are used for the benefit of the owners the Iraqi people.
"The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another," Mr. Bush said at a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
In his 30-minute speech, he signaled that time is running out for the international body to remain relevant.
"We are a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We helped to create the Security Council. We believe in the Security Council so much that we want its words to have meaning," he said.
Chastising world leaders for shying away from the threat Saddam poses to the world, Mr. Bush said "a threat to all must be answered by all."
"High-minded pronouncements against proliferation mean little unless the strongest nations are willing to stand behind them and use force if necessary," he said.
In Washington, critics of the president's stance on Iraq were voicing opposition before Mr. Bush delivered his speech in the evening.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said the United States should avoid inflaming those who oppose disarming Saddam.
"War with Iraq, especially without broad international support, is likely to increase al Qaeda terrorism against Americans, and the nation deserves to understand why our nation should take this gamble," he said.
While Mr. Bush for months has made the case against Saddam, last night's speech was the first time the president went into detail in connecting Middle East peace to the end of Saddam's 24-year rule.
"Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state. The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers," he said.
"And other regimes will be given a clear warning that support for terror will not be tolerated," he said.
Mr. Bush noted that Iraq has provided funding for Palestinian terrorists who have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians in shootings and bombings in the past 28 months, a link Iraq has not tried to hide.
The Arab Liberation Front, a pro-Iraqi Palestinian group, says it has disbursed $35 million of Saddam's money to relatives of Palestinians killed or wounded, including suicide bombers and other terrorists.
In his speech, Mr. Bush said without Iraqi backing for terrorism, "Palestinians who are working for reform and long for democracy will be in a better position to choose new leaders true leaders who strive for peace; true leaders who faithfully serve the people.
"A Palestinian state must be a reformed and peaceful state that abandons forever the use of terror," he said.
Israeli officials in recent days have predicted benefits from a U.S.-led war that topples Saddam. Some go as far as to predict the end of the rule of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, which would create more favorable conditions for negotiations with more moderate Palestinian leaders.
"It will send a message throughout the region," said Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "Tyrants will know that there is a price to be paid. It will be up to the Palestinians to decide if they want to be part of the new order."
But the president's address also set a high bar for the Israelis, demanding that new security in the region brought about by the demise of Saddam means they "will be expected to support the creation of a viable Palestinian state and to work as quickly as possible toward a final status agreement."
As he called on Palestinians to end terrorist attacks against Israelis, he also called on the new Israeli government to end construction of settlements.
"As progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the occupied territories must end," Mr. Bush said.
Reading from a prepared text, not a TelePrompTer, Mr. Bush declared that if Saddam is deposed, the United States will follow through on its long history of helping defeated foes rebuild and establish democracies, noting the example of World War II.
"America has made and kept this kind of commitment before in the peace that followed a world war. … In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home," he said.
"There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong," Mr. Bush pointed out. "Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken."
James G. Lakely contributed to this report.


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