Revised U.S. text expected next week
By Edith M. Lederer ~ The Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS -- President Bush on Saturday called Saddam Hussein a "dangerous man" with links to terrorist networks, as Security Council members awaited a revised U.S. resolution to disarm Iraq.
After seven weeks of negotiations, and almost daily demands from Bush for the United Nations to act against Iraq or face becoming irrelevant, Washington is slowing down its timetable.
U.S. officials say a vote is unlikely until late next week because of the need to revise the resolution and have the council discuss the updated draft -- which will delay action until after Tuesday's U.S. midterm elections.
Still, Bush kept the pressure up Saturday, saying in political stops that Saddam is "a dangerous man" and U.N. inspections for weapons are critical.
"We know the implications of him having a nuclear weapon," Bush said during a political stop in Blountville, Tenn. "We know he's had contacts with terrorists' networks like al-Qaida."
The proposed U.S. resolution would strengthen inspections, declare Iraq in "material breach" of its obligations to eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and threaten "serious consequences" if it fails to cooperate with inspectors.
Russia, France and China contend the United States could use the resolution to launch an attack on Iraq without getting council authorization. They want the possibility of force to be considered in a second resolution only if Iraq fails to comply with U.N. inspectors.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said that last week was "productive" in the search for a resolution that would satisfy Russia and France.
"Talks are continuing along," he told reporters Saturday aboard Air Force One while Bush was flying to Tennessee. He wouldn't say when the United States expects a Security Council vote.
The United States is increasingly optimistic about support for a tough resolution in the 15-member council and has claimed it has nine "yes" votes, the minimum needed for adoption. One council diplomat dismissed the U.S. vote count as "wishful thinking."
In Jordan, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told reporters that the "battle now is inside the Security Council and there is a strong resistance against a rash resolution which would provoke Iraq and hinder the quiet mission of the inspectors."
U.S. officials said the new text would extend a deadline for Iraq to declare chemical programs unrelated to weapons from 30 days to 50 days.
On Friday, U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix briefed the 10 elected Security Council members on his plans for inspections and talks he had with Bush about the U.S. proposal.
Later, Blix met Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri. "He told me the most important thing is the United States chose the path of the United Nations to resolve the problem," Al-Douri said.
But he expressed skepticism about Bush's real motive. "I still think the United Nations will be used as a tool for America to implement their political program against my country," he told The Associated Press.