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Bush Meets with Congressional Leaders on Iraq - 2002-09-04

President Bush says he will seek Congressional approval before taking action against Iraq. The president met with Congressional leaders Wednesday to discuss ways to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

President Bush said the United States must act to protect itself against threats from Iraq. "Saddam Hussein is a serious threat," he added. "He is a significant problem. It is something that this country must deal with."

It is the start of a campaign to rally domestic and international support for getting rid of Saddam Hussein, who the president says could help terrorists acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

Domestically, Mr. Bush said he will cooperate with Congressional hearings on Iraq and, at what he calls "the appropriate time," he stressed he will seek the legislature's approval for action.

He said, "We look forward to an open dialogue with Congress and the American people about the threat and that not only will we consult with the United States Congress, we being the administration, but that my administration will fully participate in any hearing that the Congress wishes to have on this subject."

The president told Congressional leaders he has still not decided whether to use military force in Iraq. House minority leader Dick Gephardt noted the president is looking for an approach that will be shared by U.S. allies. "This is the beginning of the building of a strategy with the American people, the Congress, and the rest of the world in dealing with what is a threat," he said.

The president will meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair Saturday and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien next Monday to discuss Iraq's weapons program.

Mr. Bush said he will also consult with the leaders of China, Russia, and France before a speech to the United Nations next week where he will make his case for action against the Iraqi leader.

"I am going to state clearly to the United Nations what I think," explained Mr. Bush. "And I think that he has not fulfilled any of the obligations that he made to the world, and I believe it is important for the world to deal with this matter."

Mr. Bush says the Iraqi leader has "stiffed" the international community by not following through on promises to stop developing weapons of mass destruction. He says world leaders must understand that their credibility is at stake if they allow Iraqi weapons programs to continue.

With the exception of Prime Minister Blair, most world leaders oppose military action. France says Mr. Bush should seek authorization from the U.N. Security Council before attacking Iraq.

Germany, Sweden, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Russia are all urging President Bush to use restraint in deciding how to topple Saddam Hussein.