- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry yesterday said President Bush “circumvented” the process laid out in the congressional resolution authorizing action against Iraq, which Mr. Kerry supported in the Senate last year.

Mr. Kerry, of Massachusetts, said the president promised to build the international coalition, work through the United Nations and go to war as a last resort.

“It is clear now that he didn’t do that sufficiently,” Mr. Kerry told reporters in a telephone conference call yesterday.

He said the Iraq war resolution supported Mr. Bush exhausting diplomatic efforts before going to war, and working through the United Nations.

“The president circumvented that process,” he said, adding that Mr. Bush “did not give full meaning to the words ‘last resort.’”

Mr. Kerry defended his Senate vote in favor of the Iraq resolution, however, saying it was the right vote, “based on the information that we were given.”

He said he voted for it with the expectation that the United States would build an international coalition and exhaust other remedies before attacking. He said he was not voting to give Mr. Bush permission “to make an end run around the United Nations.”

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said all efforts were exhausted and the administration did indeed work through the United Nations. Though the U.N. Security Council did not pass a resolution authorizing the war in Iraq, Miss Buchan pointed to the U.N. resolution passed by the Security Council in November of last year, which gave Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations.

“After 12 years of Saddam Hussein’s defiance of the world and 17 U.N. resolutions, the president determined it was imperative to act,” she said.

Miss Buchan also said there was an international coalition of countries involved in the war.

Christine Iverson, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said Mr. Kerry should be more direct on the issue.

“If Senator Kerry regrets his vote to remove Saddam Hussein, he should just say so. If Senator Kerry would change his vote to remove Saddam Hussein, he should just say so. If Senator Kerry is embarassed by his vote because it’s unpopular with the antiwar base of his party, he should just say so,” she said.

Mr. Kerry again called for an investigation into the intelligence surrounding the decision to go to war with Iraq.

But he said his primary concern at this point is ensuring that we “win the peace” there. To do this, Mr. Kerry said, the administration needs to build an international force in Iraq, which it has not done. He said there are 147,000 American troops in Iraq right now and only 13,000 troops from other countries.

“We need to internationalize this. We need to do it now. We need to do it openly,” he said.

He said some countries would like to help, but want to do so under a U.N. mandate.

“I know for a fact that there are countries prepared to be helpful” if they were acting under the United Nations, he said.

Mr. Bush yesterday said the administration would like to get more countries involved.

“The more people involved in Iraq, the better off we will be,” he told reporters in Texas. “And that’s exactly what our intention is, to encourage people to participate.”

Mr. Bush said the administration is “in close consultation with the U.N.” But he said the administration believes that a resolution already passed by the U.N. Security Council in May “empowers countries to make a proper decision to get involved in Iraq.”

That resolution, among other things, lifted the economic sanctions against Iraq and encouraged the international community to help Iraq build a better future.

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