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Bush Gains Support for Iraq Policy in Congress - 2002-10-04

A resolution authorizing President Bush to use force against Iraq advanced through the U.S. Congress Thursday. A House committee approved the measure, while the Senate voted to clear the way for formal debate.

The House International Relations Committee endorsed the compromise resolution reached a day earlier between House leaders and the White House.

The Senate, meanwhile, voted to begin debate on the matter. Republican leader Trent Lott said, "It is up to us to send a message to the world and to America's friends."

The compromise resolution would authorize the president to use force against Iraq that - in its words - he determines necessary to defend the United States and enforce U.N. resolutions.

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

Mr. Bush underscored the point earlier Thursday. "The choice is up to the United Nations to show its resolve," he said. "The choice is up to Saddam Hussein to fulfill his word. If neither of them acts, the United States in deliberate fashion will lead a coalition to take away the world's worst weapons from one of the world's worst leaders."

But some Senators, mostly Democrats, argue the United Nations must play a role in any decision to use force against Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, vowed Senators will have a chance to vote on two alternatives along with the White-House backed resolution next week. Those alternatives seek to limit the President's authority to use force and provide for a greater U.N. role. "As long as I think there is a chance we can make additional improvements, I am going to do that," said Mr. Daschle. Even some Republicans are publicly expressing their reluctance to support the White House-backed resolution. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is calling for diplomatic efforts to be exhausted before resorting to military action against Iraq. He said, "If we can find a way to get rid of Saddam Hussein and have the assurances that the world will not be subjected to his maniacal impulses, his irrational tendencies, his use already of chemical weapons in the Iran war and against his own people, the Kurds, if we can find a way to do that short of war, that certainly ought to be our objective.

Despite the differences over the 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.