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Bush: Iraq Poses 'Threat Americans Cannot Ignore' - 2002-09-14

President Bush says he will act against Iraq, if the international community does not force Saddam Hussein to comply with weapons inspections. The president is following his speech at the United Nations this week with the start of a campaign to rally domestic support for action against Iraq.

In his weekly radio address, President Bush said Iraq is a threat Americans cannot ignore.

"By supporting terrorist groups, repressing its own people and pursuing weapons of mass destruction in defiance of a decade of U.N. resolutions, Saddam Hussein's regime has proven itself a grave and gathering danger," the president said. "To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take."

The president wants quick action on a U.N. resolution demanding that Saddam Hussein meet firm deadlines for complying with weapons inspections. Mr. Bush says it is essential to world security that those deadlines are a matter of days and weeks, not months and years.

While the president says he still has not decided whether to use U.S. force in Iraq, he is "highly doubtful" that Saddam Hussein will comply with a new U.N. resolution.

If the international community does not then force him to disarm, Mr. Bush says, the United States will.

"The issue is straightforward. We must choose between a world of fear, or a world of progress," he said. "We must stand up for our security and for the demands of human dignity. By heritage and choice, the United States will make that stand. The world community must do so, as well."

The president again called on Congressional leaders to pass a resolution endorsing action against Iraq before they leave for November elections.

"Congress must make it unmistakably clear that when it comes to confronting the growing danger posed by Iraq's efforts to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction, the status quo is totally unacceptable," Mr. Bush said.

Congress opens hearing on Iraqi threats in the coming week, with some Democrats still questioning the possible use of U.S. force and the president's plan for what happens in Baghdad after Saddam Hussein is removed.

Mr. Bush will take his anti-Iraq message to domestic events in the states of Iowa and Tennessee, before meetings later in the week with the president of the Czech Republic and the Russian foreign and defense ministers.