President Bush has again said the United Nations must show it is serious about disarming Iraq. The president made his comments as the head of the U.N. weapons inspection team was in New York to brief the Security Council on Iraq's latest offer to resume weapons inspections.
President Bush wants a resolution forcing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to submit to unconditional weapons inspections or face the threat of military action. If the United Nations does not take firm action to disarm Iraq, Mr. Bush says the United States will.
"My intent is to put together a vast coalition of countries who understand the threat of Saddam Hussein," the president explained. " Military option is my last choice, not my first, it's my last choice. But Saddam has got to understand, the United Nations must know that the will of this country is strong."
The president says the credibility of the United Nations is on the line as it decides whether to enforce more than a decade of resolutions ignored by Iraq.
"My intent, of course, is for the United Nations to do its job. I think it will make it easier for us to keep the peace," Mr. Bush said. " My intent is for the world to understand that the obligation is up to Saddam Hussein to disarm like he said he would do."
Britain is with the United States in its push for a new resolution that would change current U.N. rules, which exempt Saddam Hussein's palaces from unconditional weapons inspections. But the push for a tough new U.N. resolution backed by the threat of military force is facing opposition from Russia, China and France, all permanent members of the Security Council that have veto power.
China says weapons inspections, not military action, are the best way of disarming Iraq. A foreign ministry statement Thursday said the main task for the Security Council is getting weapons inspectors back into Iraq.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov says his country wants to work toward a political solution without the threat of force.
France says a new resolution authorizing the use of force should come only after Iraq is given a chance to allow weapons inspections. President Bush opposes this two-track approach because he says it will give Iraq more time to hide suspected stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
Faced with opposition from three of the five nations who hold veto power over Security Council resolutions, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says Washington will continue the "diplomatic course" to try and convince allies of the seriousness and immediacy of Iraqi threats.