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US Senate Divided on Resolution Authorizing Use of Force Against Iraq - 2002-10-03

The U.S. Senate remains divided on a resolution authorizing President Bush to use force against Iraq, a day after the House of Representatives reached agreement with the White House on such a measure. Key lawmakers want a resolution that would limit the President's power to use force and include a broader role for the United Nations.

The compromise resolution reached by the House and White House has been introduced in the Senate by a bipartisan group of Senators led by Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman.

But many Democrats and even some moderate Republicans are not happy with that measure.

The resolution would authorize the President to use whatever force against Iraq that he determines necessary and appropriate to defend the United States and enforce U.N. resolutions on Iraq.

While that resolution backs efforts to gain U.N. Security Council support, it does not require U.N. approval for unilateral U.S. action against Iraq.

That concerns some Senators, including Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, Chairman of the Armed Services committee, who introduced his own resolution on Iraq that calls for a broader role for the United Nations.

"By focusing on a tough U.N. resolution we can unify the world," the senator said. "It gives us the best chance of forcing compliance, it reduces our risks, it has fewer negative consequences down the road if force is used, and it gives us the best chance of isolating Saddam Hussein, not isolating us."

Senator Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat, agrees.

"Only a broad coalition of nations, united to disarm Saddam, while preserving our war on terror, can succeed," he said. "Our response will be far more effective if Saddam sees the whole world arrayed against him."

Another key Democrat, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, plans to offer an amendment to the White House-backed resolution that would also put more emphasis on a U.N. role. In addition, it would also make disarmament the only reason for confronting Iraq. He is co-sponsoring the measure with the top Republican on the committee, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.

That proposal has the support of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who still has questions about a possible preemptive strike on Iraq.

"If there is going to be a pre-emptive strike, are there any conditions on which that pre-emptive strike should be authorized? Does it include anything the administration can think of? Would it include protecting oil fields? Regime change? What would it include?" he asked.

Even some Republicans including Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania are calling for diplomatic efforts to be exhausted before using force against Iraq.

"We need to consider all of the alternatives short of the use of force, if our objectives can be attained without sending American men and women into battle, without exposing Iraqi civilians to casualties," senator Specter said.

Despite the differences over a resolution, Senate leaders believe support is growing for the White House-backed measure and that the Senate will ultimately approve what Mr. Bush is seeking. That vote, and a vote in the House, are expected next week.