Bush urges U.N. to show resolve against Hussein

Demands that Iraq disarm must be enforced, he says

`The game is over'

France, Russia, Germany remain opposed to a war

February 07, 2003|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Saying "the game is over" for Saddam Hussein, President Bush challenged the United Nations Security Council yesterday to enforce its demand that Iraq disarm.

One day after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell presented a detailed indictment of Iraqi deceit and defiance to the council, Bush sought to counter moves by council members France, Russia and Germany to prolong U.N. weapons inspections and forestall a U.S.-led invasion.

Should the council fail to keep the pressure on Iraq, Bush said, the United States would lead a "growing coalition" to wage war and disarm the Baghdad regime.

"Saddam Hussein will be stopped," a grim-faced Bush warned, reading a statement at the White House with Powell standing beside him.

The president said he would "welcome and support" a new Security Council resolution on Iraq - but only if it reinforces the Security Council's earlier demand that Iraq disarm or face "serious consequences," a euphemism for war.

A senior State Department official said Bush's statement signaled that intense work on a new resolution is expected in the days ahead, despite some administration officials' uneasiness about being pulled into tough negotiations with France and Russia, two pivotal veto-wielding members of the Security Council. Both those nations oppose a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Turning up the heat on Russia and France, Bush indicated that if the United Nations failed to show resolve against Iraq, it would prove itself unable to respond to security challenges in the world. Both countries derive power and prestige from their roles in the United Nations.

The State Department official said the period for adopting a U.N. resolution would have to be much briefer than the nearly two months it took for the last one on Iraq to be readied.

To meet U.S. approval, a new U.N. resolution would likely have to endorse the use of force in some fashion and set a short timetable for Iraq to comply.

"The Security Council must not back down," the president said, "when those demands are defied and mocked by a dictator."

Bush set no timetable for the Security Council to act, but his stern words signaled that time was short.

"Saddam Hussein was given a final chance; he is throwing that chance away," Bush said. "The dictator of Iraq is making his choice. Now, the nations of the Security Council must make their own."

The president spoke after meeting privately with Powell.

Testifying earlier to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Powell declared that the Iraq crisis would be brought to a conclusion, one way or the other, "within weeks." The secretary of state reiterated the administration's conviction that it has authorization to attack Iraq from prior U.N. resolutions.

Speaking with new hopefulness about the outcome of a possible war, Powell also said that the successful toppling of Hussein's regime could fundamentally reshape that region in a way that would enhance U.S. interests.

U.S. officials said the only way that Iraq could avoid an attack would be to guide U.N. inspectors to its chemical and biological weapons, reveal the extent of its nuclear program, hand over meaningful documents and provide access to scientists and other experts.

As world leaders assessed the effect of Powell's compelling presentation at the United Nations, administration officials said they were beginning to see a lessening of opposition overseas to a war, even as President Jacques Chirac of France insisted, "We refuse to think that war is inevitable."

In his statement, Bush repeated a number of the highlights of Powell's briefing to the Security Council and put new stress on the threat posed to the United States by Hussein.

The president pointed to Iraqi development of spray devices for chemical or biological agents that could be mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles.

Such a vehicle, "launched from a vessel off the American coast, could reach hundreds of miles inland," Bush said.

The president also argued that Hussein had recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons, "the very weapons the dictator tells the world he does not have."

"Saddam Hussein can now be expected to begin another round of empty concessions, transparently false denials," Bush said. "No doubt, he will play a last-minute game of deception. The game is over."

Bush also said a terror network linked to al-Qaida is operating out of Iraq and is thought to have been responsible for the assassination of a U.S. diplomat, Laurence Foley, in Jordan. The network also plotted terrorist acts against France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Georgia and Russia, he said.

Iraqi officials, bowing to one U.N. demand, said that a weapons expert had been interviewed by inspectors outside the presence of Iraqi officials.

U.S. officials insisted that this was a token gesture and that Iraq now had to go far beyond mere procedural concessions.

The same demand was echoed yesterday by Mohamed ElBaradei, who is the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He will travel to Iraq this weekend with the other chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix.

"They need to show drastic change in terms of cooperation," ElBaradei said yesterday in London. "Our mission in Baghdad this weekend is crucial."

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