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Bush: Congressional Debate on Iraq is National Security, Not Politics - 2002-10-08

President Bush continued to press his case for action against Iraq during campaign appearances for Republican candidates in Tennessee Tuesday, saying Iraq is a threat because it could give terrorists weapons of mass destruction. The President's latest remarks come as the U.S. Congress debates a resolution giving Mr. Bush authority to use military force in Iraq.

President Bush wants Congress to authorize him to use force in Iraq if he concludes that diplomacy alone is not enough to remove the threat from chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Both houses of Congress are expected to pass the resolution, despite concerns by some Senate Democrats that it gives the president too much power.

Mr. Bush says he does not see the Congressional debate as a political issue, but as a debate about the future of U.S. security. "I believe we are going to get a strong resolution backed by both Republicans and Democrats. But it is their choice to make, just like it is Mr. Saddam Hussein's choice to make as to whether or not he will do what he told the world he would do, which is to stop lying, stop deceiving and to disarm," he said.

Mr. Bush was in the southern U.S. state of Tennessee Tuesday, campaigning for Republican candidates and following-up on his speech Monday evening where he laid-out his case for action against Iraq.

In addition to the Congressional resolution authorizing him to use force in Iraq, Mr. Bush also wants a U.N. resolution that will allow military action and tighten the rules for inspections for weapons of mass destruction. He says U.N. credibility is on the line.

"We will see whether or not the United Nations has the desire, has the backbone necessary to uphold its own resolutions and help keep the peace. But if they are unable to act and if Saddam Hussein can't do what he said he would do, which is disarm, this country will lead a coalition and disarm him," Mr. Bush said.

The president is making his case against Iraq at a time when U.S. public opinion polls indicate the American public is growing increasingly skeptical about the need for U.S. force. Although 53 percent of those polled say they support military action if the President decides it is necessary, the percentage is down from 61 percent in June.