- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

NEW YORK — President Bush yesterday fiercely defended his doctrine of pre-emption, saying the ouster of Saddam Hussein at the hands of the U.S.-led coalition saved the credibility of the United Nations, which had failed to act for 12 years.

In an address to the 191-member U.N. General Assembly, the president declared that the United States had made the right decision to go to war and chastised foreign leaders for not following through on a final U.N. Security Council threat of “serious consequences” for Saddam if he failed to disarm.

“The Security Council was right to vow serious consequences if Iraq refused to comply,” Mr. Bush said, referring to the council’s last resolution, 1441. “And because there were consequences, because a coalition of nations acted to defend the peace — and the credibility of the United Nations — Iraq is free.”

The president took unflinching aim at French President Jacques Chirac and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, both of whom criticized the United States for going to war without an explicit U.N. resolution authorizing the use of military force.

Mr. Chirac, who had opposed passage of such a U.N. resolution — which would have been the 18th on Iraq over 12 years — said in an address after Mr. Bush’s speech: “No one can act alone in the name of all, and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules. There is no alternative to the United Nations.”

“The war, launched without the authorization of the Security Council, shook the multilateral system. The United Nations has just been through one of the most grave crises in its history,” he said.

For his part, Mr. Annan used his opening address to the 58th General Assembly to take an unusually blunt swipe at the U.S. action in Iraq and the president’s doctrine that the United States will not stand idle as enemies threaten America.

“My concern is that, if it were to be adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification. … Until now, it has been understood that when states go beyond that and decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, they need the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations,” said Mr. Annan, who, in an unusual move, began his address in French, then switched to English.

But Mr. Bush said that “there is no neutral ground” in the fight against international terrorism and urged leaders to join forces with the United States.

“No government should ignore the threat of terror — because to look the other way gives terrorists the chance to regroup, and recruit, and prepare. And all nations that fight terror, as if the lives of their own people depend on it, will earn the favorable judgment of history,” he said.

In his address — which came almost exactly one year after he warned that the United Nations would become “irrelevant” if it failed to act against Saddam — the president acknowledged “that some of the sovereign nations of this assembly disagreed with our actions.” But he said that “there was, and there remains, unity among us on the fundamental principles and objectives of the United Nations.”

“We are dedicated to the defense of our collective security and to the advance of human rights. These permanent commitments call us to great work in the world — work we must do together. So let us move forward,” Mr. Bush said.

While he urged the United Nations to take a larger role in the reconstruction of Iraq, the president rejected calls — most notably from France — that the U.S.-led coalition hand over power almost immediately to the Iraqi people.

“The primary goal of our coalition in Iraq is self-government for the people of Iraq, reached by orderly and democratic process. This process must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis, neither hurried, nor delayed by the wishes of other parties,” he said.

Mr. Bush called on foreign leaders to help foster democracy in Iraq, where a 25-member, U.S.-appointed Governing Council is taking its first steps toward self-governance.

“Iraq’s new leaders are showing the openness and tolerance that democracy requires, and they’re also showing courage. Yet every young democracy needs the help of friends. Now the nation of Iraq needs and deserves our aid, and all nations of goodwill should step forward and provide that support,” he said.

The president sought a leading U.N. role in drafting a new Iraqi constitution, “in training civil servants, and conducting free and fair elections.”

While Mr. Bush spoke of democracy in Iraq, administration officials expressed irritation that the head of that country’s interim government was seeking U.N. support for sovereign status for the Governing Council.

Reacting to comments by Ahmed Chalabi, a senior Bush administration official told Reuters news agency: “I can guarantee you that the American people, the president of the United States, most of the allies who are on the ground with us, are not prepared to transfer sovereignty to 25 unelected people. It’s not going to happen.”

Mr. Bush told the United Nations that it is squarely in the middle of the war on terror — regardless of whether it wishes to be.

“Last month, terrorists brought their war to the United Nations itself,” Mr. Bush said, a reference to the recent bombing of the U.N. building in Baghdad. “The U.N. headquarters in Baghdad stood for order and compassion, and for that reason, the terrorists decided it must be destroyed.”

Mr. Bush talked of other issues, calling on the United Nations to act on such global challenges as the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, rebuilding Afghanistan, AIDS, hunger and slavery.

He proposed a U.N. drive to intercept suspected shipments of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons components in transit and work to end the proliferation of weapons.

“Today, I ask the U.N. Security Council to adopt a new antiproliferation resolution. This resolution should call on all members of the U.N. to criminalize the proliferation of weapons, weapons of mass destruction, to enact strict export controls consistent with international standards and to secure any and all sensitive materials within their own borders,” he said.

Mr. Bush also urged Arab nations to cut off funding for terrorism and called on Palestinians to choose leaders committed to ending attacks against Israelis.

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