Bush: Second U.N. Iraq resolution 'welcomed'
Baghdad's invitation to inspectors a 'charade,' president says
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President Bush said he would welcome a second U.N. resolution on Iraq if it served to reinforce the message that the international community is determined to disarm the country's regime.
"It would be welcomed if it is yet another signal that we are intent upon disarming Saddam Hussein," Bush said after meeting at the White House with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
On an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean as he returned to Britain after a one-day visit to Washington, Blair talked to reporters.
"I believe we will get a second resolution," he said. "It's important that this be resolved as soon as possible. The U.S. has always believed that the current Resolution 1441 provides sufficient authority [to use force against Iraq], but 1441 also clearly implies further discussion."
Earlier, Blair told CNN that he supported getting a second U.N. Security Council resolution before launching military action. (Full story)
Bush dismissed an Iraqi invitation to U.N. inspectors to return for further talks as a "charade."
"The only way that [Saddam] can show that he's truly a peaceful man is to not negotiate with inspectors, it's not to string the inspectors along, but to disarm in front of inspectors," Bush said. (Full story)
Also Friday, U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said he would be willing to meet with the Iraqi leader "if the Iraqi side were to suggest that."
Iraqi officials have invited Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to visit Baghdad before February 10 to address issues the two raised Monday before the Security Council. (Full story)
Blix and ElBaradei "would like to see some progress first" before going to Iraq for talks, an IAEA spokeswoman said Friday.
The chief inspectors are scheduled to report to the Security Council again February 14.
Powell: War can still be avoided
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday that a war in Iraq can still be avoided, but the United States must not let fear of a war prevent it from facing the challenge of disarming Iraq. The key, Powell said, is to put maximum diplomatic pressure on Baghdad.
In a speech to the World Affairs Councils of America, Powell said, "This is a difficult issue for all of us. None of us wants to think about war, and no one wants to think about the unintended consequences of war. There is still an opportunity for war to be avoided."
Powell is scheduled to go before the Security Council on Wednesday to present newly declassified intelligence the Bush administration says shows Iraq has been keeping close tabs on weapons inspectors and racing to sanitize sites before they arrive for inspections.
Also Friday, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said it reserves the right to send Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz to the Security Council meeting, though it has not made a formal request. The Foreign Ministry said U.N. articles guarantee that the party in dispute may be present for and participate in such discussions.
Russia seeks independent evaluation of U.S. evidence
Russia's Foreign Ministry said Friday it will carefully listen to the evidence Powell presents but that it wants international inspectors to check out the data.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, said at a news conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, "The information that our American colleagues will present must be then given to the international inspectors who must use it in their work and give their corresponding evaluation of it." (Full story)
In Ankara, Turkey's top military and political leaders said Friday that they will ask the nation's parliament to vote on whether to allow U.S. troops on its soil during a war against Iraq -- a hot-button issue in NATO's only Muslim nation.
The United States has been pressing Turkey to allow 40,000 troops in the country. U.S. forces patrolling the "no-fly" zone in northern Iraq use Turkey as an operational hub.
Meanwhile, U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq resumed their search Friday for signs of a weapons of mass destruction program.
U.N. monitors visited at least four sites, including the State Company for Agricultural Supplies, where the inspectors donned protective clothing as they searched the offices in downtown Baghdad.
CNN.com's Iraq Tracker has further developments in the standoff with Iraq.