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White House Links Iraq to Terrorism - 2002-09-15

Top Bush administration officials are again making the case for action against Iraq, seeking public support with a series of interviews on American television. They are pushing for a new U.N. resolution, or resolutions, with firm deadlines and no conditions.

They are focusing on Iraq's defiance of existing U.N. resolutions and the threat Baghdad poses to the United States and the world.

Picking up on the themes of President Bush's address Thursday to the United Nations, White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell made the case for action during appearances Sunday on five American television networks.

During an interview with the Fox News Network, Ms. Rice was asked about reports Britain is about to release information drawing a close link between Iraq and al-Qaida. She told the Fox News Sunday, program she believes there have been contacts, though she stressed there is currently no evidence linking Baghdad to the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

"This is a regime that has hostile intent toward the United States, that has all kinds of people in Baghdad who are involved in terrorism, such as Abu Nidal who also has had links with al-Qaida," she said.

Secretary Powell echoed her comments, but stressed that the main reason for U.S. concern is Iraq's intention to acquire and develop weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press he said his initial contacts with other members of the U.N. Security Council about possible action were constructive and predicted formal deliberations will begin soon.

"We want to give them time to go back to their capitals, consider what the president said and come back with instructions this week so we can actually begin work on resolutions, I hope, no later than the end of the coming week,"

Secretary Powell spoke of the complexities of drafting U.N. resolutions, but predicted the matter would not drag on and a vote would be held in a few weeks.

"I think it is a matter of weeks and not months," he said. "Otherwise we will just be dribbling this along. So it is a matter of weeks. Now, I do not want to be more precise than that because drafting U.N. resolutions is not one of the easiest things in the world to do and then get the necessary votes for it."

He said the initial reaction from other members of the U.N. Security Council has been good. He told CNN's Late Edition work on a new U.N. resolution could begin by the end of the week. "All the leaders that I have spoken to recognize that this is a challenge for the United Nations. And I think they all believe it is a challenge the United Nations must meet," he said.

He said the Council must draft a new resolution must include firm deadlines and no conditions for the return of weapons inspectors. "The time for Iraq to respond was years ago. They now have an opportunity to respond with this new resolution," he said.

While it deals with the U.N., the Bush administration is also urging the U.S. congress to give the White House a vote of support on Iraq. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle told ABC's This Week that he is willing to work with President Bush to draft proper legislative language. But the South Dakota Democrat noted that during the Gulf War, congress waited until the administration had U-N backing before taking a formal stand on Iraq.

"All we are simply saying is if we are going to do this right with more international cooperation through the U-N and multilaterally in other ways, we need to ensure that we build the coalition this president's father built in 1990 and 91," he said.

President Bush has said congress does not need to wait for the United Nations. But Administration officials stressed Sunday the president is willing to meet with congressional leaders to find common ground on an Iraqi resolution that can clear both the House and the Senate.