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US Lawmakers React to Bush's Concerns on Iraq Resolution - 2002-10-01

U.S. lawmakers are reacting to President Bush's concerns about the wording of a resolution to authorize military action against Iraq. Negotiations continue between Congress and the White House on the resolution, even as the Senate and House of Representatives prepare to begin debate.

President Bush is continuing meetings with lawmakers as the process of hammering out a resolution continues. In comments Tuesday, he made clear he expects a resolution to provide him the widest flexibility in dealing with Saddam Hussein. "I don't want to get a resolution which ties my hands, a resolution which is weaker than that which was passed out of Congress in 1998," he said.

Mr. Bush was reacting to an alternative resolution by Democratic Senator Joseph Biden and Republican Senator Richard Lugar that tries to address lawmakers' worries that the original White House draft was too broad.

The Biden-Lugar version would narrow the focus to Iraq, rather than the White House's initial draft that sought authority to restore peace and stability in the region.

However, on Capitol Hill there were more expressions of concern about giving the President too much power.

Texas Democratic Congressman Martin Frost said he does not consider President Bush's remarks about the Biden-Lugar proposal to be "final". The lawmaker described to reporters what he believes will give the President the bipartisan support he is seeking. "It [the resolution] should make clear that our primary objective is a comprehensive inspection program that provides access to all potential chemical, biological and nuclear sites in the country, unimpeded by the Iraqi government and that results in disarmament," he said. "It should state clear support for the efforts of the President and Secretary of State Colin Powell, to obtain a strong United Nations resolution regarding the necessity for prompt and thorough inspections. It should limit any potential action to Iraq, rather than giving the administration license to conduct military activity anywhere in the region."

Mr. Frost also played down reports of disagreements among congressional Democrats over the best way to precede on Iraq.

Formal congressional debate on the Iraq resolution is scheduled to begin Wednesday in the Senate. Republican Senator Christopher Bond set the stage for that debate. "Let's be clear about the intent - the resolution that I trust, the House will adopt and we will adopt, should send a clear message to the world community and to the Iraqi regime that the demands of the U.N. Security Council must be followed. Saddam Hussein must be disarmed," said Senator Bond.

The Senate's democratic leadership had hoped to begin the Iraq debate on Tuesday, but was forced to delay by one day because of continuing negotiations with the White House on wording.

At the same time, the House of Representatives International Relations Committee announced it will be finalizing a House version of the Iraq resolution on Wednesday.