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US Lawmakers Not Unified on Iraq Issue - 2002-09-27

A draft resolution that would allow President Bush to use military force against Iraq is being circulated on Capitol Hill. But, lawmakers are far from unified on the issue.

According to news reports, the draft proposal would authorize the President to use military force against Iraq to defend U.S. national security interests. The draft says the President must explain to Congress, before or after using force, why diplomatic efforts were not adequate to protect those interests.

The draft restricts possible use of force to Iraq. The resolution Mr. Bush initially sought allowed for possible use of force throughout the region.

Congressional sources say the draft proposal represents progress in talks between Congressional leaders and the White House.

At the White House, Mr. Bush echoed the comments. "We are moving toward a strong resolution," he said. "All of us and many others in Congress are united in our determination to confront an urgent threat to America."

But some Democrats, including Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, argue Mr. Bush has not made the case for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. "I remain unconvinced that the administration has thought through the potential costs and challenges of post-conflict reconstruction in Iraq, or even thought through how to address the issue of weapons of mass destruction once an engagement begins," he said.

Other Democrats say the United States should thoroughly pursue diplomatic channels aimed at dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before resorting to military action.

Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota says at a time when the United Nations is considering its own resolution on Iraq, the resolution before Congress sends a mixed message to the international community. "We are in an odd position right now because on the one hand we are saying to the United Nations we want your support," said Senator Wellstone. "But on the other hand we are asked to vote on a resolution that gives the United Nations the back of the hand and says regardless of what you do, we are going in."

In the House, a group of moderate Democrats are seeking language calling for another attempt at stronger weapons inspections in Iraq.