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Bush Requests Authority to Use Force Against Iraq - 2002-09-19

President Bush says he wants the U.S. Congress to give him the authority to use all measures he determines appropriate, including force, against Iraq. Mr. Bush spoke shortly before the White House sent proposed legislation to Capitol Hill.

The president is asking Congress to authorize the use of all means he determines appropriate, including force, to bring Iraq into compliance with its U.N. obligations, and counter the Iraqi threat to the United States. He said, "I've asked for Congress's support to enable the administration to keep the peace."

The draft resolution is, in essence, a two page indictment of Saddam Hussein's regime, focusing largely on his intention to develop and acquire weapons of mass destruction. It cites his eleven years of disregard for U.N. resolutions, and notes America's "inherent right" - acknowledged under the U.N. charter - to defend itself.

Lawmakers who have discussed the measure with the president predict it will get bipartisan support. Mr. Bush wants strong backing from Congress as he presses the United Nations to exert maximum pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to live up to the promises made at the end of the Gulf War.

They include not just disarmament and destruction of weapons of mass destruction, but fair treatment of ethnic minorities and information on the fate of prisoners of war.

Mr. Bush discussed his decision to seek congressional authority with reporters at the end of a meeting at the White House with Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is trying to convince some reluctant members of the Security Council to pass a new tough resolution demanding compliance. The president once again called on the Council to act.

"The United Nations Security Council must work with the United States and Britain and other concerned parties to send a clear message that we expect Saddam to disarm," said Mr. Bush.

And once again, as he did in his speech last week to the world body, Mr. Bush left no doubt the United States is prepared to act alone, if necessary. "If the United Nations Security Council won't deal with the problem, the United States and some of our friends will," he warned.

The president then sounded an optimistic note, saying that there are many nations that love freedom and he is confident they will follow his lead on Iraq.

Later, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said he could not predict a date for a possible U.N. vote on Iraq. The administration is far more certain of its prospects in Congress, where support for the president's stand on Iraq is fairly solid, and leaders have promised to vote on a resolution before congressional elections on November 5.