President Bush says the resolution introduced in the U.S. Congress authorizing the use of force in Iraq sends a clear signal to Saddam Hussein that time is running out for him to comply with U.N. resolutions. The president met with congressional leaders over the resolution at the White House.
President Bush says the resolution introduced in the House and Senate makes it clear that the United States is determined to force Iraq to give up suspected stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
"The statement of support from the Congress will show to friend and enemy alike the resolve of the United States," he said. "In Baghdad, the regime will know that full compliance with all U.N. security demands is the only choice. And the time remaining for that choice is limited."
Surrounded by congressional leaders in the Rose Garden Wednesday, the president said he does not want military conflict with Iraq, but if Saddam Hussein refuses to disarm, Mr. Bush says the use of force "may become unavoidable."
The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Dennis Hastert says the bipartisan resolution on Iraq, which is now being debated in the House and Senate, gives the president the flexibility to counter the Iraqi threat through diplomacy or force.
"It supports the president's effort to work with the United Nations, but it doesn't require him to seek U.N. approval first," he said. "If the president determines that he has to act unilaterally to protect American people, he can, and he has the ability to do that."
President Bush again called on United Nations members to back a new U.N. Security Council resolution forcing Iraq to disarm, saying inspections carried out under the current agreements will not stop Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction.
"We know the methods of this regime," he said. "They buy time with hollow promises. They move incriminating evidence to stay ahead of inspectors. They conceded just enough to escape punishment and then violate every pledge when the attention of the world is turned away."
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt says Democrats made diplomatic action a priority in the House resolution now being considered, but did not limit the president's ability to use force if he concludes diplomacy has failed to remove Iraqi threats.
"Iraq's use and continuing development of weapons of mass destruction, combined with efforts of terrorists to acquire such weapons pose a unique and dangerous threat to our national security," he said. "Many of us believe that we need to deal with this threat diplomatically if we can, militarily if we must."
The resolution unveiled at the White House Wednesday is expected to be approved by the House next week following debate. In the Senate, some lawmakers say they may seek amendments that would place greater emphasis on the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and may limit the president's authority to use force.
President Bush opposes an alternative resolution in the Senate, saying it would tie his hands in dealing with other Iraqi threats that he says include helping terrorists and threatening his neighbors.