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Members of US Congress Comment on President's UN Speech - 2002-09-12


U.S. lawmakers say President Bush's speech to the U.N. General Assembly is an important step toward building an international coalition to support possible military action against Iraq. But Democrats say the president has yet to convince them that such action is warranted.

Republicans say Mr. Bush made a strong and convincing case that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses a threat to the world.

Although the president made no specific threat to use force against Iraq, he said action would be unavoidable, unless the United Nations enforces resolutions compelling Saddam Hussein to disarm.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott called on Congress to swiftly pass a resolution backing possible U.S. military action against Iraq.

But Democrats, while saying they are encouraged Mr. Bush is reaching out to the international community, say he has not made a convincing case for using military force.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said, "Every time the president continues to speak out, continues to speak to each of us, he strengthens his case. I think it was helpful, but I do not think it was conclusive. There are still many questions that have to be resolved, have to be answered."

Senator Daschle said those questions include how much international support Mr. Bush would get for a military mission against Iraq, the risks and costs of such action, the impact on the overall war on terrorism, and plans for replacing Saddam Hussein.

The majority leader said the Senate would debate the issue in the coming weeks, but he was noncommittal about when a resolution would come to the Senate floor for a vote.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said it is important for lawmakers to pass such a resolution before November's Congressional elections. Such a vote, he argued, would boost Mr. Bush's efforts to rally international support. "When he consults with our allies and makes his case for a robust weapons inspection regime, he needs to tell our allies and people throughout the world that the American people are behind him," he said.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who has opposed Mr. Bush's threat of taking unilateral action against Iraq, praised the president for taking the "high diplomatic ground." He said it is now up to the United Nations to respond.

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