- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

NEW YORK — President Bush will issue a blunt “call to action” tomorrow when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly and assert to skeptical foreign leaders that the United States and its coalition partners “made the right decision” to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Eschewing calls for him to plead on bended knee for help in Iraq — including a directive from Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright to give a “conciliatory” speech — the president will “challenge” the international community to put aside past disagreements and work toward securing freedom and democracy for Iraqis.

“The president believes that because the entire world will benefit from a safe and secure Iraq, that every nation has a primary responsibility to contribute to the coalition effort,” said a senior Bush administration official, previewing the president’s 10:30 a.m. address.

“This is a call to action to the international community to formulate global solutions to global challenges,” the official said.

In his address, the president will acknowledge past differences but will not retract his warning from Sept. 12, 2002, that the world body risked irrelevance if it failed to enforce 17 Security Council resolutions passed during the previous 11 years, an official said.

In an interview yesterday with Brit Hume of Fox News, Mr. Bush said: “My message is, is that although some of you didn’t agree with the actions we took, now let’s work together to rebuild Iraq, rebuild Afghanistan. …

“I will make it clear that I made the right decision and the others that joined us made the right decision. The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein,” he said.

The president said the world now knows that resolutions passed by the United Nations have teeth — even if the world body failed to act on its own. Citing the U.N. Security Council’s final resolution on Iraq — 1441, which called for “serious consequences” if Saddam failed to comply — Mr. Bush said in the Fox interview: “At least somebody stood up and said, ‘This is a definition of serious consequences.’”

Asked by Mr. Hume if he was willing to grant a larger role to the United Nations in Iraq, Mr. Bush said: “I’m not so sure we have to, for starters. But secondly, I do think it would be helpful to get the United Nations in to help write a constitution. I mean, they’re good at that. Or, perhaps when an election starts, they’ll oversee the election.”

Mr. Bush will urge the United Nations, which is considering a U.S.-proposed resolution calling for the creation of a multilateral force in Iraq under U.S. command, to be patient.

“The key on any resolution, however, is not to get in the way of an orderly transfer of sovereignty based upon a logical series of steps,” Mr. Bush said in the Fox interview. “And that’s constitution, elections, and then the transfer of authority.”

Germany and France, the most vocal opponents to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, want the United States to cede power almost immediately to the political transition to the United Nations and the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. But senior Bush officials said the United States is unlikely to accede to the demand.

“You can’t just, in one day or one week or even four months, hand over the keys,” one official said. “As we’ve said before, we’re not going to leave before the Iraqis are ready and able to assume all the responsibilities and authorities for rebuilding their country, because that puts them in the position to fail.”

The official said Mr. Bush will make a case for nations to contribute in any way they can.

“Whether that is a financial contribution or training or providing troops or providing material or providing expertise, virtually every country around the globe has something to contribute,” the official said.

As he did one year ago, Mr. Bush will challenge the United Nations to move past discussions and act.

In his address, the president also will express his desire for the United Nations to join forces with the United States. Mr. Bush also will praise foreign leaders for their efforts to date.

“The international community should be proud that the Saddam Hussein regime is no longer in Iraq. It acted to rid the world of this tyrannical, dangerous regime,” one of the senior officials said.

The president’s speech will cover three broad topics: help for rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan; a halt to the spread of weapons of mass destruction; and ban on slavery around the world.

After the president addresses the assembly and meets with several foreign leaders tomorrow and Wednesday, the Bush administration expects the U.N. Security Council to approve a U.S.-proposed resolution calling for the creation of a multilateral force in Iraq under U.S. command.

Passage of the measure will clear the way for several nations to begin providing troops and money to stabilize the war-torn country.

The United States wants at least one more division-size force of international troops, roughly 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers, under U.S. command.

More importantly, the U.S.-led coalition needs cash. Mr. Bush last week asked Congress to allocate $87 billion to meet current needs.

Despite the words of foreign leaders who opposed the U.S.-led war to remove Saddam from power, top Bush officials said France and Russia will allow passage of the resolution, which may be finalized by the end of this week.

Several nations, among them Pakistan, India and Turkey, have said they would provide troops only with U.N. approval. The United States wants the three hostile veto-wielding members of the Security Council — France, Russia and China — to stand aside so other nations can join forces to secure Iraq.

During his two-day trip, Mr. Bush will meet with several foreign leaders who opposed the war in Iraq, including Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder and France’s Jacques Chirac. While Mr. Schroeder appears ready to help the U.S.-led coalition, Mr. Chirac continues to call for the United States to quickly cede nearly all control over Iraq.

Still, Mr. Chirac said last night he has no intention of vetoing the U.S.-proposed U.N. resolution.

“I am not in that mind-set at all,” he said.

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