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Bush considers new deadline for renewed weapons inspections

Thursday, September 12, 2002

NEW YORK -- President Bush is ready to make a fresh call on Iraq to admit weapons inspectors while his strategists consider setting a deadline with serious consequences if the appeal is rejected, even as old allies withhold support.

The implicit warning of U.S. military action to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would be in a U.N. Security Council resolution by Britain that would have to avert a veto by Russia, China or France to pass.

The president will make his case against Iraq at the United Nations on Thursday, urging the nations of the world to compel Saddam to admit weapons inspectors and to disarm.

A senior U.S. official said he is "going to make clear that the current regime in Iraq is an outlaw regime, that it has defied U.N. resolutions for 11 years now."

Trying to spur the United Nations to action, Bush intends to tell the 190 nations that Saddam's "outlaw regime" is challenging the world organization with its defiance of a string of resolutions, the official said.

Bush contends he does not need new legal authority to use force to overthrow Saddam. The White House cites U.N. resolutions dating from 1990-91 Persian Gulf war that reversed Iraq's annexation of Kuwait.

But with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder dismissing action against Iraq as an "adventure," and only Britain solidly in the U.S. camp, Bush's policy could stand a boost even though the president is prepared to act unilaterally, if need be.

French President Jacques Chirac has declared himself "totally against unilateralism" and his government is preparing Security Council resolutions that, first, would give Iraq a three-week deadline to admit inspectors after a lapse of more than 3 1/2 years and then have the Council consider what to do if Saddam resists again.

Bush intends to send diplomatic missions to Paris, Moscow and Beijing to press his case for deposing Saddam. The topic also is bound to come up in talks Undersecretary of State John Bolton will hold in Moscow this week on the technology assistance Russia is giving Iran.

At home, senior Bush administration officials are trying to muster support in Congress. Two senior senators, Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat, and Dick Lugar, an Indiana Republican, assured Bush this week of their concern that "the combination of Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction poses a significant threat."

But House Majority Leader Dick Armey remained unconvinced.

"I set the mark very high," he said. "I will need to see a plan before I will cast a vote. I will need to see it is necessary, and there is a plan that I personally think is fair to the courage we ask of these young people."

Any plan to oust Saddam must be that the United States not act alone, many lawmakers say.

Under the agreement that ended the Gulf war and several U.N. Security Council resolutions, Iraq is forbidden to develop weapons of mass destruction and under orders to allow any already in its arsenal to be destroyed.

Bush linked his goal of toppling Saddam to the war on terror he began after the Sept. 11 attacks a year ago.

"I'm deeply concerned about a leader who has ignored the United Nations for all these years, refused to conform to resolution after resolution after resolution, who has weapons of mass destruction," Bush said.


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