The White House says Saddam Hussein will be ousted from power if President George W. Bush opts to disarm Iraq by force. The destruction of more banned missiles by Baghdad is not enough, and Saddam Hussein must completely disarm now.
White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said if there is war, Saddam Hussein will be removed from power. "Nobody should think, not even for second, that military action could be possible to disarm Saddam Hussein that would leave Saddam Hussein at the helm for him to rearm later. No. That is not an option," he said.
But what if Saddam Hussein disarms voluntarily? Could he then remain in power? Mr. Fleischer says, first things first.
"Well, let's see him first completely, totally and immediately disarm and see if that takes place," he said.
The White House spokesman said the latest steps by Baghdad are not enough. They include the destruction of more banned missiles, and a promise to report to the U.N. on stocks on anthrax and deadly VX nerve gas. Mr. Fleischer says these steps amount to a piecemeal response to international disarmament demands.
"The United Nations resolutions did not call for a little piece of disarmament. They didn't say 10 percent disarmament four months after we call on you to do it immediately. None of that was in 1441. And the only reason this is even happening today in the small degree that it has indeed happened is because he is under great pressure from President Bush, the United States and the coalition of the willing," Mr. Fleischer said.
The White House got mixed news over the weekend in its efforts to build a coalition against Saddam Hussein. Turkey's parliament narrowly rejected a motion to allow U.S. forces to deploy on Turkish soil, a move that Ari Fleischer described as "a surprise and disappointment." At the same time, several Gulf nations called on Saddam Hussein to leave power to avoid war.
"People who have watched the Arab world closely know even the suggestion by several nations that Saddam Hussein be exiled is an extraordinary development," Mr. Fleischer said.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration is continuing to press for passage of a second U.N. resolution on Iraq that could pave the way for military action. There are reports a vote could come shortly after chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix briefs the Security Council later this week, perhaps on Friday. Mr. Fleischer said he will not predict the outcome, but added the president remains confident the measure will pass.