Bush skeptical about prospects of Iraqi cooperation with U.N.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

The Washington Post

UNITED NATIONS -- President Bush said Friday he is "highly doubtful" that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will end 11 years of defiance of the United Nations, while a top Iraqi official made clear that Iraq will not yield easily to the growing international pressure.

As the Bush administration opened discussions with the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council about how to confront Iraq, the president maintained the fighting stance he adopted before the General Assembly Thursday, calling for speedy U.N. action in confronting Saddam. He said he remains dubious about the Iraqi leader's intentions because "for 11 long years, he has basically told the United Nations and the world he doesn't care."

In Baghdad, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz suggested that Bush's skepticism may be well-founded. He rejected the president's demands for Iraqi compliance with U.N. arms control resolutions and described Bush's speech to the world body as "full of lies."

"We do not accept his conditions," Aziz said. He said the dispute will not be solved by the unconditional return of international weapons inspectors, a move required by the Security Council and favored by many governments critical of Iraqi behavior.

The verbal sparring began as the administration opened its campaign to persuade the U.N. to move strongly against Saddam. Secretary of State Colin Powell emphasized Bush's determination to act, no matter what the U.N. decides.

Pressing for resolution

Powell said the United States expects fast action from the Security Council and an early deadline for Iraqi compliance. In one of several appearances Friday, Powell said that a resolution must contain deadlines, or else "the Iraqis will string us out."

Powell plans to press for a Security Council resolution that details Iraq's broken commitments, defines the steps the Iraqi government must take and explains what will happen if the council's commands are ignored.

Bush, who returned to Washington Friday after two days in New York, also said he expects quick work from Congress. He jabbed at Democrats on Capitol Hill who have said they may resist a vote supporting use of military force against Iraq until after the Security Council sets a course.

"I can't imagine an elected member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives saying, 'I think I'm going to wait for the United Nations to make a decision,'" Bush said. "It seems like to me that if you're representing the United States, you ought to be making a decision on what's best for the United States."

Many governments expressed support for Bush's arguments against Iraq and praised his pledge to work with the Security Council. But there is no consensus yet on the contents of a potential resolution, with negotiations over wording to begin next week. Nor is there agreement on what should happen if Saddam does not respond adequately.

Warnings from the White House that the administration is prepared to remove the Iraqi leader by force if he does not change his behavior have drawn opposition from world leaders. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Germany would not take part in any military action, while leaders of Persian Gulf countries told Powell Friday that they remain worried about the potential fallout from a war against Iraq.

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