In the face of stiff opposition from allies, President Bush said today that world leaders “must not back down” from Saddam Hussein and demanded quick action to disarm Iraq.
“The game is over,” he declared. “Saddam Hussein will be stopped.”
Mr. Bush said he would be open to a second U.N. resolution on Iraq, following up one approved last November, but only if it led to prompt disarmament.
“The Security Council must not back down when those demands are defied and mocked by a dictator,” Mr. Bush said. If the U.N. fails to act, “The United States, along with a growing coalition of nations, is resolved to take whatever action is necessary to defend ourselves and disarm the Iraqi regime,” he said.
Mr. Bush spoke after meeting privately with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to discuss efforts to win U.N. approval of a resolution specifically authorizing use of force. Mr. Powell, who laid out the U.S. case to the U.N. Security Council yesterday, told lawmakers today that the Iraqi situation would be brought to a conclusion “one way or another” in a matter of weeks.
Sticking largely to the case outlined by Mr. Powell yesterday, Mr. Bush said there is no doubt Saddam is not complying.
“Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons, the very weapons the dictator tells the world he does not have,” Mr. Bush said.
“Saddam Hussein has made Iraq into a prison, poison factory and a torture chamber for patriots and dissidents,” Mr. Bush said. “Saddam Hussein has the motive and the means and the recklessness and the hatred to threaten the American people. Saddam Hussein has to be stopped.”
He said, “The same terrorist network operating out of Iraq is responsible for the murder - the recent murder - of an American diplomat, Lawrence Foley.”
Mr. Foley, a U.S. Agency for International Development official, was killed last November outside his home in Amman, Jordan.
“Saddam Hussein was given a final chance, he is throwing that chance away. The dictator of Iraq is making his choice,” Mr. Bush said.
Foreign ministers responded mostly with calls for more weapons inspections after Mr. Powell’s U.N. presentation, in which he asserted that Iraq was shifting and hiding weapons and missile programs from the current inspectors.
Mr. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that most of the statements read by foreign ministers after his speech had been prepared beforehand. He said he detected a shift in attitude when he talked to 13 of the ministers in private afterward.
Still, Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell were considering ways to attract more support for the possibility of using force to disarm Iraq.
Mr. Powell told the committee Mr. Bush would welcome a second resolution and “many members of the Council would not only welcome it, some of them would say we require one for participation in whatever might come.”
A resolution approved unanimously by the Council in November authorized a new round of U.N. weapons inspections and warned Iraq of serious consequences if it defied earlier resolutions requiring it to get rid of weapons of mass destruction.
The Bush administration has taken the position that the November resolution was sufficient backing for the use of force. But France, among other nations, does not agree.
Mr. Bush spoke to reporters without taking questions.
The president said Saddam has not accounted for a “vast arsenal” of weapons of mass destruction and is pursuing weapons programs in defiance of U.N. resolutions.
“This deception is directed from the highest levels of the Iraqi regime, including Saddam Hussein, his son, the vice president and the very official responsible for cooperating with inspectors,” Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Powell told the senators he had told Council members at the time of the November resolution that Iraq would be subjected to military action if it failed to comply. In fact, he said, he told ministers they should not vote for the resolution if they would not support a second resolution “when serious consequences are called for.”
“Don’t play that double game,” he said he told the ministers.
Mr. Powell said today a key to winning Security Council support would be a two-day visit to Baghdad this weekend by chief weapon inspectors Mohamed ElBaradei and Hans Blix.