Bush: U.S. will move on Iraq if U.N. won't
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- President Bush called on the United Nations Thursday to move quickly -- within a matter of weeks, according to his advisers -- to enforce its resolutions demanding Iraq's disarmament.
Bush told the U.N. General Assembly his administration will work with the U.N. Security Council, but made clear the United States would move against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on its own if the council fails to act.
"The purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced. The just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable, and a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power," he said.
Bush aides say they would like to see the issue play out in a six- to eight-week period: First, a new U.N. resolution, followed by the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq -- with the clear understanding that any interference would justify military action.
"We cannot wait months for him to comply," a senior administration official said.
Bush's speech drew a positive reaction from Russia and France, two permanent members of the Security Council with the power to veto any resolution who have opposed a unilateral U.S. military response. (Full story)
French President Jacques Chirac has proposed a two-step plan for resuming inspections backed by the threat of military force. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Thursday "the status quo is unacceptable."
"We cannot agree to violations of any Security Council resolutions," he said.
Russia supports resuming weapons inspections in Iraq, but has opposed the use of military force. However, Moscow is increasingly frustrated with Iraq's intransigence on the issue, and observers say Russia would not defend Saddam in a standoff with the international community.
The Bush administration is coordinating its strategy with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and U.S. officials said London will take the lead in the Security Council. (Full story)
White House spokesman Dan Bartlett confirmed Thursday that U.S. officials are in close talks with Britain about a proposed resolution on Iraq. Bartlett said Bush wants a U.N. resolution within weeks, not months.
"Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance," Bush said. "All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment.
"Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?"
Among the permanent Security Council members who could veto a resolution on Iraq, only Britain has publicly supported the United States.
Secretary of State Colin Powell will be meeting with officials from the other permanent Security Council members -- Russia, France and China -- in the next few days, Bartlett said.
In advance of the speech, the White House produced a 22-page report documenting what it calls Iraq's repeated violations of the commitments it made at the end of that war to eliminate its chemical, nuclear and biological weapons programs. (Full story)
Bush said Iraq has admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other biological weapons for use in bombs, artillery shells and missile warheads.
By evading U.N. sanctions and frustrating arms inspections since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Saddam poses "exactly the kind of aggressive threat the United Nations was born to confront," he said.
Mohammed Aldouri, Iraq's U.N. ambassador, dismissed the report and the allegations Bush leveled in his speech. He said Washington has no evidence that Iraq is developing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
"Lacking any evidence, he chooses to deceive the world and his own people by the longest series of fabrications that has been ever told by a leader of a nation," Aldouri said.
Bush's "true motives" are "revenge, oil, political ambitions and also the security of Israel and targeting every independent state that would refuse to adhere to American policy," he said. (Full story)
Bush has been widely criticized in world capitals for what even many historically close U.S. allies have considered a unilateral push for military confrontation with Iraq.
White House officials reject much of the criticism, saying Bush all along has said the use of force is a last option.
However, Washington will send a clear signal to Iraq by moving 600 to 1,000 staff members of the U.S. Central Command from Florida to Qatar to test the feasibility, politically and physically, of permanently relocating the entire headquarters, officials said.
The exercise is slated for November. Central Command oversees operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, including the war in Afghanistan.
Qatar's foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim, urged the United States to allow more time for diplomatic efforts.
"As a small country, we are doing our best in this," he said. "But I could see there is a big momentum going on, and we need to see how we can slow down this process."
Speaking to the General Assembly before Bush's address, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said no nation should act alone on major global issues as "a simple matter of political convenience."
But if Iraq continues to flout U.N. resolutions, "The Security Council must face its responsibilities," he said. (Full story)
Members of Congress from both parties agreed with the content of Bush's speech but diverged on what should happen next.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said Congress must "give the president all the authority he would need" to go after Saddam. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, called the speech "helpful" but not conclusive, and said many questions remain. (Full story)
Bush also announced the United States would rejoin the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, "as a symbol of our commitment to human dignity."
The United States quit UNESCO in 1984 after the Reagan administration called it politicized and anti-American.
"This organization has been reformed, and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights and tolerance and learning," Bush said.
CNN White House correspondents John King and Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.
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