Rice: Bush won't back down on Iraq
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration held to its stance on Iraq on Sunday, a day after millions of people worldwide demonstrated against a possible war in the Persian Gulf.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice carried the White House position into the battle of words on the Sunday talk shows.
She said on both "Fox News Sunday" and NBC's "Meet the Press" that President Bush would not back down, despite pleas last week from most members of the U.N. Security Council that he give weapons inspectors more time.
"Some [nations] gave [Iraqi President Saddam Hussein] the impression Friday that he can play this game," Rice told NBC.
"The coalition of the willing is preparing," she said on Fox. "We are in a period now, a diplomatic window, in which we should be discussing how the Security Council can best carry out its obligations.
"But Saddam Hussein shouldn't read into what he's seen over the last couple of days that somehow he's going to get away with it again."
Led by France and Germany, opposition to use of force in Iraq was voiced after chief U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei delivered their latest reports.
"We are making progress," said Jean-David Lafitte, the French ambassador to the United States. "But it's too slow. We demand more, but we maintain that the inspections produce results."
In an interview with TIME magazine in this week's editions, French President Jacques Chirac also called for continued inspections before any military action is considered.
Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Lafitte cited the discovery and destruction last week of 10 artillery shells filled with mustard gas -- cataloged by previous inspection teams but not destroyed before they left Iraq in 1998 -- and a report that declared that Iraq's Al Samoud 2 missiles were not in compliance with U.N. rules and must be destroyed.
The Iraqis responded that they would not destroy the missiles after the report found that they exceeded the allowable range of 93 miles (150 kilometers) by about 18 miles (30 kilometers).
Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz scoffed at the idea, saying the missiles were not capable of reaching "any country around Iraq."
The French ambassador would not say whether his government thought Iraq's refusal to destroy the missiles represented a material breach of the resolutions requiring disarmament.
Christopher Meyer, Britain's ambassador to the United States, was more specific.
"The key standard is the key requirement of [U.N. Resolution] 1441, which is that if Iraq wants to avoid serious consequences, then it must cooperate fully, comprehensively and immediately," he told ABC. "That resolution found Iraqis already in material breach.
"Nothing we have heard from the two reports so far from Hans Blix tells us we have had the nature of cooperation the resolution requires."
Failure to destroy the Al Samoud missiles, Meyer said, "would dig the material breach deeper."
In Europe on Monday, the focus will shift to a meeting of 15 European Union heads in Brussels, Belgium.
Diplomats told Reuters that they hoped Friday's mixed report to the United Nations from the chief weapons inspectors and the huge anti-war protests could defuse a confrontational "high noon" mood.
They said they hoped Europe's leaders could unite behind a final plea to Saddam to comply with U.N. disarmament resolutions before it is too late. (Full story)
Rice said any delay in enforcing the U.N.'s resolutions would send Saddam the message that he could continue to "play cheat and retreat."
But at Friday's Security Council meeting, the U.S. position appeared to be losing momentum, with only Britain and Spain falling solidly behind Bush's stance.
The United States and Britain have insisted that U.N. Resolution 1441 is about compliance and not inspections, and that they would prefer a peaceful solution to the crisis.
They also have said they want the unanimous support of the Security Council for whatever measures are taken.
"The world has to pull together and send a very strong message to the Iraqis," said Rice, adding that the United States would not object to a second resolution on disarmament.
The United States and Britain, sources have said, are working on such a resolution, to be introduced to the Security Council by mid-week.
"What we would like to see is a united Security Council, united in the determination to see Saddam Hussein either disarm or be disarmed," Meyer said. "That is our position."
But absent a united council, British Prime Minister Tony Blair "is prepared to take action in certain circumstances," Meyer said.
"The key thing here are the reports of Blix and ElBaradei," he said. "If they continue to say there is not full compliance with 1441 -- and in that passionate debate last Friday nobody claimed that there was -- and in those circumstances if a country were, for example, to veto a resolution and most other member states were willing to go along with war, we would be there."
For the latest developments, see CNN.com's Iraq Tracker.