President Bush says he will deal "appropriately" with countries that are developing weapons of mass destruction. But in his first comments to White House reporters in the New Year, Mr. Bush said he hopes the United States will not got to war with Iraq.
President Bush said he is hopeful there will be no war with Iraq, but he said that depends on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein making up his mind to disarm. "Hopefully he realizes we are serious and hopefully he disarms peacefully," said President Bush. "He is a danger to the American people. He is a danger to our friends and allies."
U.N. weapons inspectors have been in Iraq more than one month trying to find out if the country is hiding chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.
If the Security Council concludes that Iraq is violating U.N. resolutions, it will then meet to decide the consequences. If President Bush is not satisfied with those consequences, he says he will lead his own coalition to disarm Iraq by force.
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz says the Bush Administration is planning to attack Iraq no matter the results of the weapons inspections. He says Washington has an "imperialist design" to invade and occupy Iraq, then use the country's resources for itself.
More U.S. troops have been moving into the Persian Gulf during the last few months in anticipation of possible military action.
Mr. Bush says the Iraqi leader's response to weapons inspections has been "discouraging", because, he says, Iraq's initial report on weapons programs was not true. "He is a man who likes to play games and charades," he said. "And the question is, will Saddam Hussein disarm? The world has asked him to disarm from weapons of mass destruction. The first indication is not very positive that he will voluntarily disarm. After all, he put out a declaration that the world realized was false."
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday that he sees no reason for military action against Iraq at this time. He says Iraq is cooperating with U.N. arms inspectors and he is satisfied that they are doing their work without impediments.