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US Senate Begins  Debate on Iraq Resolution - 2002-10-05

In the U.S. Senate, where formal debate has begun on a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq, key Democrats are seeking to limit the president's authority to use force and are pressing for a greater United Nations role.

A bipartisan resolution now being debated by the Senate would authorize the president to use force against Iraq that he determines necessary to defend the United States and enforce U.N. resolutions.

Some Democrats are making clear their opposition to the measure. Among them is Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. "What a broad grant of naked power! To whom? One person, the president of the United States, "exclaimed Senator Byrd.

Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, hopes to address such concerns with a proposal that would limit the president's authority to deal only with the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

That proposal would take the form of an amendment, and is cosponsored with Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.

Meanwhile, another key Democrat, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, introduced a resolution Friday that would authorize military action in connection with a new U.N. Security Council resolution. But it would defer a decision should the United Nations not act. "At the time when we are seeking U.N. support, we would send the wrong message to the United Nations, telling the United Nations that 'if you do not enforce your resolutions, we will', not only sends an inconsistent message, it lets the U.N. off the hook," he said. "We should be seeking to unite the world against Saddam Hussein, not divide it."

Still other Democrats, including Senator Bob Graham of Florida, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, expressed concern that possible war against Iraq could take needed resources away from the war against terrorism. "What the president is proposing today might be called an 'Iraq first' policy," he said. "I am concerned that a war with Saddam Hussein would be waged to the exclusion of, or possibly to the detriment of, the war on terrorism."

But Senator John Warner of Virginia, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee and cosponsor of the resolution now on the Senate floor, said the time has come to deal with Iraq. "Saddam Hussein's relentless pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver these weapons represents a present threat, and an immediate challenge to the international community," said Senator Warner.

Although there are opponents to the resolution, leaders of both parties believe it will pass overwhelmingly. The House and Senate are expected to approve the measure next week.