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Bush: Bush: 'The facts are powerful'

From John King
CNN Washington

Bush watched Powell's presentation after a meeting with Poland's prime minister.
Bush watched Powell's presentation after a meeting with Poland's prime minister.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush believes "the facts are powerful" in making the case that Iraq is in defiance of U.N. demands to disarm and that the U.N. Security Council's relevance is at stake in how it handles the Iraq debate over the next few weeks, his spokesman said Wednesday.

The president watched the final 45 minutes or so of Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council Wednesday. (Full story)

He missed the first part of the presentation because he was meeting with Poland's prime minister. One of NATOs newest members, Poland has been a steadfast ally in Bush's war on terrorism.

Bush retired to his private dining room after the meeting and had a snack of cheese and crackers as he watched Powell. Joining him were National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, her deputy, Steve Hadley, and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.

Fleischer said Bush, who had reviewed the presentation in advance, said little as Powell spoke. "He believes the facts are powerful and must now be carefully considered by those on the council and throughout the international community," Fleischer said in a telephone interview.

Senior administration officials said they are less interested in the immediate reaction of France, Russia and other nations than they are in seeing whether those governments change their tone over the next several days. Several officials noted that remarks delivered after Powell spoke were prepared before the secretary's presentation. (Full story)

Powell will stay in New York for consultations with other foreign ministers and "get a sense of how this sinks in," in the words of one senior official. "He will take their temperatures and we will decide how to proceed from there."

Bush is open to a second Security Council resolution but only if it lays out a clear and "short term" timeline for Iraqi compliance and makes clear military force is authorized if Iraq's behavior does not change in the very near future, officials said.

The White House is shying away from setting a clear deadline, but officials say the February 14 presentation to the Security Council by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix is the next critical date.

If Blix again reports a lack of full Iraqi cooperation, the White House will be looking "for clear and immediate evidence the council understands the gravity of the moment and meets its responsibilities, as opposed to wandering off into irrelevance," one senior official said.


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