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Saddam's Offer to Allow Inspection is a 'Ploy,' Charges Bush - 2002-09-18

President Bush says he will continue to press the U.N. for action on Iraq, while working with the U.S. Congress to draft a resolution of support for the possible use of force against Saddam Hussein. Mr. Bush spoke at the end of a meeting with the four top Congressional leaders.

They met shortly after dawn at the White House to talk about Iraq and related issues.

Reporters were unexpectedly admitted to the final moments of the meeting. And for the second day in a row, the president dismissed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's offer to admit weapons inspectors and urged the U.N. to take a strong stand.

"It's his latest ploy, his latest attempt not to be held accountable for defying the United Nations," Mr. Bush said. "He is not going to fool anybody."

But some members of the U.N. Security Council say they no longer see the need for a new tough resolution on Iraq. The president predicted that, in the end, they will join his call to put maximum pressure on Saddam Hussein.

"We are going to continue to work hard to continue to make the case," he said. "I think reasonable people understand this man is unreasonable."

Mr. Bush spoke at the end of a meeting with Congressional leaders that centered on the Iraqi threat. He welcomed their commitment to hold a vote on Iraq before lawmakers leave Washington to campaign full-time for the November elections.

"I think it is an important signal. It is an important signal for the country," he said. "It is also an important signal for the world to see this country is united in our resolve."

The president said he would be sending lawmakers suggested language for a tough resolution on Iraq, sometime in the next few days.

The response from republicans and democrats as they left the White House was largely bipartisan. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said it is important for the president and congress to work together to draft a resolution. But the South Dakota Democrat noted it is equally important for the Bush administration to win international support for its Iraq policy.

"We'll work in concert with the administration, republicans and democrats, hopefully with the recognition that this ought to be done in the international arena," he said. "And I am confident that is where it will be done."

Later, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked about the pace of consultations at the U.N. and the likelihood the Iraqi offer might slow down Security Council deliberations. He downplayed the notion of a delay.

"I see nothing to suggest that the timing has changed for what the United Nations Security Council is considering," said Mr. Fleischer. "I think what you are seeing is the essence of diplomacy."

Mr. Fleischer said it is blatantly apparent that moves in the past to get effective weapons inspections did not work and a new approach is needed. He said anything done now must be done in a way that guarantees Iraqi disarmament.