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Democrats in US Congress Still Skeptical on Action Against Iraq

Congressional Democrats want more information from the Bush administration about possible U.S. military action against Iraq. They say President Bush's speech to the U.N. General Assembly Thursday did not convince them such action is warranted.

Democrats who have criticized the Bush administration's threats to unilaterally attack Iraq welcomed the president's efforts to reach out to the international community on the issue.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. "The embracing of the international community by this administration finally I think is important for our country, and it can only result in the end of a strengthening of our capacity to provide for the national security needs of our nation," he said.

But many Democrats, including New York Senator Chuck Schumer, say Mr. Bush did not convince them of the need for military action. "Are there enough facts in what the President said today to say 'invade Iraq tomorrow'? No. He is going to have to continue to lay out the case in a variety of different ways," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota agrees, saying he has questions he wants answered about a possible pre-emptive strike on Iraq.

"First, what will be the reaction of the international community? How much help will we get? Second, how much will it affect our ongoing war in bringing the level of terror and the threat of terror down? Finally, if a pre-emptive strike has among its goals a regime change, what is the plan for the change in regime? Who will be the leadership?" he asked.

Senator Daschle went on to said the Senate would debate the issue in the coming weeks, but he was noncommittal about when a resolution authorizing military action 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," Mr. McCain said.

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

One Republican who has been concerned about the administration's willingness to go it alone in any pre-emptive strike against Iraq, said he is pleased Mr. Bush did not specifically call for military action.

Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said in a written statement "war should never be the first option in foreign affairs, it should be the last." He praised Mr. Bush for taking the "the high diplomatic ground," and said it is now up to the United Nations to respond.