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Bush, Berlusconi Discuss UN Position on Iraq - 2002-09-14


President Bush met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Saturday to discuss the United Nations position on Iraq. Mr. Bush says he is ready to move against Saddam Hussein on his own, if the United Nations does not force the Iraqi leader to give up weapons of mass destruction.

President Bush wants quick action on a U.N. resolution forcing Iraq to disarm. He says it is a chance for the international community to show some "backbone" in confronting a leader who has defied a decade of U.N. resolutions.

"Enough is enough," the president said. "The U.N. will either be able to function as a peacekeeping body as we head into the 21st century or it will be irrelevant. And that is what we are about to find out. But remember what I said in my speech. Now is the time to deal with the problem."

President Bush says U.N. credibility is at stake if world leaders do not hold the Iraqi leader to a firm deadline for complying with weapons inspections. Mr. Bush says it is essential to world security that those deadlines are a matter of days and weeks, not months and years.

The president says he is "highly doubtful" that Saddam Hussein would abide by those deadlines. If he does not, and the international community fails to act, Mr. Bush told the Italian leader that the United States is ready to move against Iraq on its own.

"Make no mistake about it. If we have to deal with the problem, we will deal with it," Mr. Bush said.

Prime Minister Berlusconi said he wants a common position with the United States regarding Iraqi threats. Speaking through a translator, he welcomed the president's call for U.N. action.

"The United Nations can not continue to see its image undermined and its resolutions flaunted," Mr. Berlusconi said.

Mr. Berlusconi says the president's case for action against Iraq has been well received in Europe and Russia.

The Bush Administration is trying to convince skeptical allies that Iraq poses imminent threats and must be dealt with quickly.

In the coming week, the president will continue his push for international support against Iraq in meetings with the president of the Czech Republic and the Russian Foreign and Defense ministers.

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