The Bush administration moved closer on two fronts Thursday to gaining the approval, at home and abroad, that it needs to take military action against Iraq.
After summoning members of Congress to the White House, President Bush told reporters the administration is moving closer to agreement with lawmakers on a resolution that would give the president the congressional backing he wants to take action against Iraq, if he decides to.
"And by passing this resolution, we will send a clear message to the world and to the Iraqi regime: The demands of the U.N. Security Council must be followed. The Iraqi dictator must be disarmed. These requirements will be met or they will be enforced," he said.
This, a day after negotiations between the White House and Congress threatened to break down amid partisan rancor after Senate majority leader Tom Daschle accused the president of politicizing national security by suggesting Democrats did not care about it. The White House charged Senator Daschle had taken the president's remarks out of context.
At the same time, Secretary of State Colin Powell was letting Congress know progress was being made at the United Nations on a new Security Council resolution demanding Iraq disarm or face the threat of military action.
"We have come into agreement with the United Kingdom on what the elements of a resolution should look like," he said, "and I am sending a senior official from my department to Paris this evening and then on the Moscow to discuss with the French and the Russians what we believe should be in such a resolution and we are briefing representatives of the Chinese government here in Washington today."
But Mr. Powell faced tough questioning from senators on just what role the United States might play in a future Iraq stripped of Saddam Hussein and what kind of country the administration envisions if a decision is made to invade and force the Iraqi leader from power.
"Something that will be seen by the international community as a representative government that will keep the state together, that will foreswear the use of any weapons of mass destruction or development of it. I think it will take time and I can't tell you how many years, but it will take a strong American presence," he said. "That presence will be a political presence and it will probably be a military presence. We are on the cusp of a very, very demanding and long-term commitment if we have to go down this road."
Iraq denies it has weapons of mass destruction and has agreed to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return without conditions. But the Bush administration is now stepping up its assertions that Iraq also has ties to terrorism. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Thursday the United States has solid evidence that senior members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network have recently been in Baghdad and may have received training in using chemical and biological weapons.