NEW YORK — President Bush yesterday demanded that the United Nations step up to help rebuild Iraq, telling foreign leaders “the liberty that many have won at a cost must be secured.”
The president also urged Israel to impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts and “end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people,” while criticizing Palestinian leaders who “intimidate opposition, tolerate corruption, and maintain ties to terrorist groups.”
In a 25-minute speech to a somber chamber packed with leaders from the 191 U.N. member nations, the unapologetic president again scolded the world body for failing to confront Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for his repeated violations of U.N. resolutions demanding that he disarm or face “serious consequences.”
“The Security Council promised serious consequences for his defiance. And the commitments we make must have meaning. When we say ‘serious consequences,’ for the sake of peace, there must be serious consequences,” Mr. Bush said.
“And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world,” he said, directly rebutting Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s recent charge that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was “illegal.”
Mr. Bush’s speech, which received polite applause only at its conclusion, followed one by Mr. Annan, who warned that “rule of law” is at risk around the world but did not single out the U.S. president’s action in Iraq.
On the first day of his two-day stay in New York, Mr. Bush also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who praised the president for his “courage” to do what the United Nations would not and urged foreign leaders to help his nation.
The Iraqi leader also said that despite a recent surge in violence in Iraq, it is “very important for the people of the world really to know that we are winning, we are making progress in Iraq, we are defeating terrorists.”
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday echoed those words, saying, “This sort of attitude that we are on the verge of defeat is absolutely wrong.”
“We knew it was going to be tough. … We have faced these kinds of difficult moments before. And this is the time to not take counsel of our fears and say everything’s falling apart,” Mr. Powell said on a morning talk show.
For his part at the United Nations, Mr. Bush sternly told the leaders 11 times what they “must” do, including his assertion that “peaceful nations must stand for the advance of democracy.”
Sen. John Kerry immediately criticized Mr. Bush’s speech, saying the president misled the United Nations in the four-month lead-up to war and charging that he “does not have the credibility to lead the world.”
“This president chose, personally, each time to spurn the United Nations, to spurn the help of other people, to make this more expensive for the American people. Not to tell the truth,” the Democratic presidential nominee said in his first press conference since Aug. 9.
“The president really has no credibility at this point. He has no credibility with foreign leaders who hear him come before them and talk as if everything is going well, and they see that we can’t even protect the people on the ground for the election” in Iraq, which is scheduled for January.
Mr. Bush made the same “credibility” charge against Mr. Kerry, criticizing the many positions he has taken on Iraq, from his Senate vote in favor of authorizing the use of force to oust Saddam to his most recent charge that the conflict is “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“My opponent has taken so many different positions on Iraq that his statements are hardly credible at all,” Mr. Bush said in a brief session with reporters.
Noting that Mr. Allawi agrees that “the world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell,” Mr. Bush said: “That stands in stark contrast to the statement my opponent made yesterday when he said that the world was better off with Saddam in power. I strongly disagree.”
At the United Nations, Mr. Bush proposed a new “democracy fund” within the world body, which he said would help countries lay the foundations of democracy by instituting the rule of law, independent courts, a free press, political parties and trade unions.
“Money from the fund would also help set up voter precincts and polling places and support the work of election monitors,” he said, noting that the United States will make an initial contribution and urging all nations to contribute.
In his speech, Mr. Bush sternly told the United Nations — whose Security Council voted 15-0 on Nov. 8, 2002, to give Iraq a final chance to comply with its disarmament obligations before facing “serious consequences” — that the future of the free world is at stake and Mr. Allawi needs help.
“All civilized nations are in this struggle together, and all must fight the murderers. … Nations must stand for the advance of democracy,” he said.
“The U.N. and its member nations must respond to Prime Minister Allawi’s request and do more to help build an Iraq that is secure, democratic, federal and free,” Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Allawi agreed, saying that “the war now in Iraq is really not only an Iraqi war, it’s a war for the civilized world to fight terrorists and terrorism.”
“They want to undermine us in Iraq and to move from Iraq to undermine the region,” he said. “And once they do this, they will hit hard at the civilized world — in Washington and New York and London and Paris and Ankara and Geneva and elsewhere — everywhere in the civilized world.”
Mr. Annan mostly took veiled shots at Mr. Bush. For example, he made parallel references to Abu Ghraib prison abuse and the videotaped beheadings and other killings by terrorists of Americans and other foreigners.
“In Iraq, we see civilians massacred in cold blood, while relief workers, journalists and other non-combatants are taken hostage and put to death in the most barbarous fashion,” Mr. Annan said. “At the same time, we have seen Iraqi prisoners disgracefully abused.”
Iraq’s Mr. Allawi won notice by shaking the hand of Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and exchanging pleasantries with him at yesterday’s General Assembly meeting, the foreign minister told the Associated Press.
The two countries were seated next to each other, in alphabetical order. Iraq’s U.N. mission said it had no information about the encounter.
In his speech, Mr. Bush called on Israel to impose a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, taking a new, harder line against Israeli plans introduced last month to build about 1,530 more settler homes in the disputed region.
A “road map” to peace has been stalled since new violence erupted in the Middle East, and Mr. Bush urged Israel to “avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations.”
His criticism of Palestinian leaders, however, was far more harsh.
“Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders capable of creating and governing a free and peaceful Palestinian state,” he said. “And world leaders should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause.”
In a day of meetings with other world leaders, Mr. Bush conferred with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and reiterated U.S. support for Tokyo’s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, a Japanese official told Kyodo News Agency.
Japan issued a joint statement with Brazil, Germany and India saying all should have permanent seats on an expanded Security Council, and that an African nation should also have permanent representation.