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Bush: US Willing to Use Force as Last Resort Against Iraq - 2003-03-08

U.S. President George W. Bush said Saturday he is ready to use military force against Iraq unless it "fully and unconditionally" disarms. Mr. Bush's comments came as Iraq said it has resumed destruction of banned missiles and President Saddam Hussein called for an end to U.N. sanctions imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

In his weekly radio address, President Bush said people across the world are praying for peace.

But he said peace will only be advanced when terrorists lose a "wealthy patron and protector," and when Saddam Hussein is "fully and finally" disarmed.

"We will not wait to see what terrorists or terror states could do with weapons of mass destruction," he said. "We are determined to confront threats wherever they arise. And, as a last resort, we must be willing to use military force. We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force."

Mr. Bush spoke a day after the chief U.N. weapons inspectors for Iraq reported that Iraq has taken significant steps toward disarmament, but said they could not attest that Iraq was fully complying with U.N. demands that it disarm.

President Saddam Hussein issued a statement Saturday saying, since Iraq is complying with demands to destroy its banned al-Samoud 2 missiles, the U.N. Security Council should lift sanctions imposed after the 1991 Gulf War.

President Bush called the missile destruction "a public show." Mr. Bush said that intelligence information shows that as the missiles are being destroyed, Saddam Hussein has ordered the continued production of the same weapons.

"These are not the actions of a regime that is disarming," he said. "These are the actions of a regime engaged in a willful charade. If the Iraqi regime were disarming, we would know it - because we would see it - Iraq's weapons would be presented to inspectors and destroyed."

The United States, Britain and Spain are supporting a proposal to give Iraq until March 17 to comply with U.N. resolutions, or face military action.

Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, said Saturday Moscow will not support the draft resolution, saying more time is needed for continued U.N. inspections in Iraq.

France and China also back that position.

President Bush emphasized that what the inspectors need is cooperation from Baghdad.

"Inspection teams do not need more time, or more personnel," he said. "All they need is what they have never received, the full cooperation of the Iraqi regime. The only acceptable outcome is the outcome already demanded by a unanimous vote of the Security Council: total disarmament."

All sides are engaging in a major diplomatic push over the next few days, as 250,000 mostly American and British troops are poised to sweep into Iraq.

A vote in the U.N. Security Council on the proposed March 17 deadline could come as early as Tuesday.