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Bush Supports UN Inspections But Not Optimistic Given Saddam's History - 2002-12-03

With U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq continuing, President Bush says the real test for Saddam Hussein is whether he will agree to give up weapons of mass destruction. The White House is downplaying reports that that the president expects weapons inspections to fail.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said "no one wants the inspectors to be more successful than President Bush," because it was Mr. Bush who created conditions for them to return as part of a new U.N. resolution.

Mr. Fleischer said the president is not encouraged by the Iraqi leader's history of frustrating weapons inspections.

Campaigning in the southern state of Louisiana, Mr. Bush said he will not be satisfied until Iraq is disarmed. "The issue is not the inspectors. The issue is whether or not Mr. Saddam Hussein will disarm like he said he would. We are not interested in hide-and-seek inside Iraq," Mr. Bush said.

If Saddam Hussein does not disarm, President Bush repeated his threat to use force against the country to prevent, what he says, is the risk of Iraq helping terrorists use chemical or biological weapons.

"In the name of security, not only for America and the American people, in the name of security for our friends in the neighborhood, in the name of freedom, will this man disarm? The choice is his. And if he does not disarm, the United States of America will lead a coalition and disarm him in the name of peace," Mr. Bush said.

Iraq's official news agency called President Bush a "bad man" and accused him of trying to damage international relations.

Under the terms of last month's unanimous Security Council resolution, Iraq has until Sunday to declare all of its biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons work, as well as its long-range missiles. Iraq said the declaration could be ready as early as Wednesday.

Whenever the declaration is made, Mr. Fleischer said U.S. officials will take what he calls "the appropriate time" to study those results, saying they should be gone over "carefully and thoroughly."

The president was in Louisiana campaigning for the Republican challenger in the nation's last undecided Senate race. Republicans hope to add to the one-seat majority they won in last month's mid-term elections.