President Bush says he is close to agreement with Congress on authorizing the use of force against Iraq. The president met with congressional leaders from both parties at the White House Thursday.
Surrounded by members of Congress in the Rose Garden, President Bush said they are making progress on a resolution to confront the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"We are moving toward a strong resolution," announced the president. " And all of us, and many others in Congress, are united in our determination to confront an urgent threat to America. And by passing this resolution, we will send a clear message to the world and to the Iraqi regime. The demands of the U.N. Security Council must be followed. The Iraqi dictator must be disarmed. These requirements will be met or they will be enforced."
He wants the United Nations to pass a resolution forcing Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. weapons inspections. If the international community does not disarm Iraq, President Bush says the United States is ready to act on its own.
Mr. Bush says Saddam Hussein is stockpiling chemical and biological weapons that could be used in terrorist attacks. Iraq says it has no weapons of mass destruction and has agreed to the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to prove it.
The Bush Administration says inspections alone are not sufficient to remove the threat. Disarmament is the goal, the president says, along with forcing the Iraqi leader to stop persecuting ethnic minorities, hand over prisoners from the Gulf War, stop selling oil outside the U.N. oil-for-food program, and stop supporting terrorism.
The president's National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice Wednesday made the strongest link yet between the Iraqi leader and al-Qaida terrorists. In the past, the president has said the threat is that Saddam Hussein might help terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Ms. Rice says Iraq has already given those terrorists chemical weapons training.
"There have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of al-Qaida going back for, actually, quite a long time," she said.
Ms. Rice says the information comes from senior al-Qaida officials who are being detained by U.S. forces.
The president's 30-minute meeting with members of Congress from both parties Thursday morning was meant to soothe some of the political finger-pointing of the last few days.
Senate Majority Leader Democrat Tom Daschle Wednesday accused the president of politicizing the call for action against Iraq. He demanded that Mr. Bush apologize for suggesting that Democrats do not care about national security because they will not approve labor requirements in a new department of homeland security.
President Bush did not apologize for anything Thursday, but he did try to strike a more conciliatory tone with Congress, saying Democrats and Republicans are close to speaking with "one voice" on Iraq because people from both parties "refuse to live in a future of fear."
The president wants a resolution from Congress before it adjourns ahead of mid-term elections November 5.