WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) — President George Bush Saturday reprised administration arguments against Iraq, adding that he hoped for a new U.N. resolution to add muscle to the demand that Iraq disarm, but he’d still act independently protect the country if necessary.
The U.N. Security Council must not back down to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s defiance of its mandates, he said.
“Saddam Hussein was required to make a full declaration of his weapons programs. He has not done so,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “The United States would welcome and support a new resolution making clear that the Security Council stands behind its previous demands, yet resolutions mean little without resolve.”
Following the appearance at the United Nations earlier this week by Secretary of State Colin Powell, the administration has gone full throttle in a diplomatic bid to gain support among Security Council members for a strong resolution against Iraq — one authorizing force — or convince other states to join Washington in an independent military campaign to force Iraq to give up chemical and biological weapons.
France, China and Russia, permanent members of the council, are opposed to force and could veto any such resolution.
“The Iraqi regime’s violations of Security Council resolutions are evident, they are dangerous to America and the world, and they continue to this hour,” Bush said.
“The United States, along with a growing coalition of nations, will take whatever action is necessary to defend ourselves and disarm the Iraqi regime if the council fails to act forcibly,” he added.
Powell, in his appearance before the council Wednesday, recited the long list of Iraqi violations of previous international disarmament accords. He also presented audiotapes, satellite photographs and other information to prove that Saddam Hussein was not cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors, and was actually engaging in a game of cat-and-mouse to keep proscribed weapons hidden.
“One of the greatest dangers we face is that weapons of mass destruction might be passed to terrorists who would not hesitate to use those weapons,” Bush said Saturday.
On Friday the president authorized raising the national terror alert from elevated to high, the second-highest rating, after the United States received intelligence that al Qaida could launch attacks against U.S. citizens during the upcoming Muslim holy days.
U.S. embassies and consulates in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Israel have given family members and non-emergency personnel the option to return to the United States, but they emphasized on Saturday it was not a mandatory evacuation.
The embassy in Beirut issued a statement Saturday that said the decision “results from an overall assessment of the security situation in the region at this time, a rise in anti-American sentiment in the region, and the potential for violence and terrorist action against American targets especially as the international community continues to focus on the issue of Iraqi disarmament.”
However, it added, “This does not mean that military action against Iraq is imminent” and the authorized departure “merely represents a prudent measure as we prepare for various contingencies in the region.”
The Middle East diplomatic missions meanwhile will remain open, confirmed Carol Kalin, the U.S. charge d’affaires in Beirut.
On Saturday Bush also spoke with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in an exchange that White House spokesman Scott Stanzel described as “a good conversation.” The two leaders discussed Iraq, and Bush told Berlusconi he appreciated Italy’s support for the U.S. stance, Stanzel said.
Bush is currently at Camp David, where he had his usual intelligence briefing and exercise in the presidential retreat’s gym, the spokesman added.