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'BUSH READY TO GO - WITHOUT U.N. - 7 MARCH 2003'


11th September 2001
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FROM: http://www.washingtonpost.com

BUSH IS READY TO GO WITHOUT U.N.

But U.S. to Seek Security Council Vote Next Week

By Dana Milbank and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers

Friday, March 7, 2003; Page A01

President Bush said last night he would press ahead with a U.N. Security Council vote on Iraq's disarmament despite formidable opposition, but he left no doubt that he would act to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein even without the blessing of the world body.

"No matter what the whip count is, we're calling for the vote," the president said in a news conference in the East Room of the White House, a day after France, Russia and Germany vowed to oppose the U.S. resolution opening the way to an attack on Iraq. "We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council.

And so, you bet. It's time for people to show their cards, let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam."

The rare prime-time news conference by Bush -- the second of his presidency and the first in 17 months -- was an effort to regain momentum for the U.S. position on the eve of chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix's latest report on Iraq's compliance.

Bush made clear his view that the inspections process has become a "willful charade" and that Hussein was "a cancer inside Iraq." He hinted that a military attack could be imminent.

"After next week -- we'll just wait and see," he said. "When it comes to our security, we really don't need anybody's permission."

Yet Bush's appearance was markedly subdued in an atmosphere designed to reassure Americans and allies that the administration's position was thoughtful and not rash. He spoke softly and slowly in a tone of sad resignation, eschewing the folksy phrases and "cowboy" rhetoric that often punctuate his off-the-cuff remarks.

Instead, he delivered little new information and repeated passages from recent speeches on Iraq, sprinkling his remarks with qualifiers and reassurance.

Bush, in his 52-minute appearance, voiced the word "hope" 16 times and said eight times that he would only wage war "if we have to."

In a gesture to his overseas critics, Bush repeatedly used the word "peace" or "peacefully," declaring that his goal is peace, that Iraq is a threat to peace and that if Hussein were forcibly disarmed, it would be "in the name of peace."

"I pray for peace," Bush said. "I pray for peace."

Yet while carefully qualifying his remarks at times, Bush at several points spoke of war as a fait accompli. In his discussion of a budget request for the cost of his war, which his staff has said will be sent to Congress only after hostilities begin, Bush said: "In terms of the dollar amount, well, we'll let you know here pretty soon."

At one point, he said flatly: "We will be changing the regime of Iraq for the good of the Iraqi people."

Bush also suggested the inevitability of war when he said he thinks constantly about the responsibility of committing troops. "I believe we'll prevail. I know we'll prevail," he said.

As for inspections, Bush left no room for discussion. "It makes no sense to allow this issue to continue on and on in the hopes that Saddam Hussein disarms," Bush said. "We gave him a chance. As a matter of fact, we gave him 12 years of chances."

The president repeatedly spoke of the national sovereignty of the United States, a signal that he would not be bound by international opposition to his Iraq campaign.

"Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country," he said, also vowing, "I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons."

At one point, Bush raised his right hand as if taking the presidential oath, a gesture he made at the close of each of his campaign speeches. "My job is to protect America, and that's exactly what I'm going to do," he said. "People can ascribe all kinds of intentions. I swore to protect and defend the Constitution. And that's exactly what I am going to do."

Bush spoke just hours before today's crucial report to the Security Council by Blix, who told reporters this week that Baghdad has become increasingly cooperative.

The United States predicament in the Security Council has been growing by the day. France, Russia and Germany said jointly this week that they would work to defeat a resolution that authorized war, and China has strongly backed their position.

Great Britain, which introduced the resolution with the United States, said yesterday that it was willing to negotiate the wording to gain supporters.

Bush said the United States is "days away from resolving this issue at the Security Council," making it clear that he does not plan to participate in any protracted debate over changes. "This is the last phase of diplomacy," he said. "A little bit more time? Saddam Hussein has had 12 years to disarm."

The president followed a script of names in choosing which reporters could ask him a question, and he received generally friendly questioning.

Asked about his faith, Bush said he prays daily "for guidance and wisdom and strength," and said he found it comforting to know so many people were praying for him. "It's a humbling experience to think that people I will never have met have lifted me and my family up in prayer," he said.

Not a single question was asked about al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, homeland security or the economy.

The only time the questioning left Iraq was when Bush was asked about North Korea, which has rising nuclear ambitions and is believed by U.S. intelligence officials to be planning further provocations such as last weekend's interception of an Air Force surveillance plane. Bush said China, South Korea, Japan and Russia must join the U.S. and "stand up to their responsibility" to convince Kim Jong Il "that the development of a nuclear arsenal is not in his nation's interests."

"This is a regional issue," Bush said. "I say a regional issue because there's a lot of countries that have got a direct stake into whether or not North Korea has nuclear weapons."

Bush repeated some of the updated allegations of Iraqi obstruction, several of which were offered Wednesday by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

Bush said some biological and chemical weapons agents have been moved every 12 to 24 hours, or placed in vehicles in residential neighborhoods. He also asserted that Iraqi scientists in interviews with inspectors are required to wear concealed recording devices.

Bush's aides have said they have no hope that Hussein will go into exile, but Bush raised that possibility as an acceptable solution. "I hope he leaves the country," he said. "I hear a lot of talk from different nations around where Saddam Hussein might be exiled. That would be fine with me, just so long as Iraq disarms after he's exiled."

Bush, stung by the focus on the U.S. failure to catch bin Laden, was asked twice if success in Iraq was contingent on capturing or killing Hussein.

He did not answer directly. "If we go to war, there will be a regime change," he said. "And replacing this cancer inside of Iraq will be a government that represents the rights of all the people, a government which represents the voices of the Shia and Sunni and the Kurds."

Despite Turkey's vote not to allow the basing of U.S. troops for an attack on Iraq, Bush asserted that the denial "won't cause any more hardship for our troops" if the decision is not reversed.

Yet even with some 250,000 troops in the region prepared to strike Iraq, Bush said the decision was still Hussein's.

"It's his choice to make whether or not we got to war," Bush said. "He's the person that can make the choice of war or peace. Thus far he's made the wrong choice."

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

FROM: http://www.washingtonpost.com

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