President Bush has signed a Congressional resolution that authorizes him to use force in Iraq if he determines it is necessary. The president used the White House signing ceremony to again called on the United Nations to take tough action to disarm Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
The Congressional resolution authorizes President Bush to use force if he concludes that diplomacy alone is not enough to remove the threat from suspected stockpiles of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons.
Surrounded by legislators who voted for the resolution last week, President Bush said he will take whatever action is necessary to disarm Iraq.
"With this resolution, Congress has now authorized the use of force," the president said. "I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary, yet confronting the threat posed by Iraq is necessary by whatever means that requires."
The president again called on the United Nations to take tough action against Iraq, saying the country is a "serious and growing threat to peace" not just for the United States but for the world as a whole.
If Iraqi weapons production continues, Mr. Bush said, nations in the Middle East would face what he called "blackmail, intimidation, or attack." Chaos in that region, he said, would be felt in Europe and beyond.
"Those who choose to live in denial many eventually be forced to live in fear. Every nation that shares in the benefits of peace also shares in the duty of defending the peace," Mr. Bush said.
The United States and Britain want a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force to bring Iraq into compliance with U.N. resolutions on weapons of mass destruction.
They are facing opposition from Russia and France, which as permanent members of the Security Council, can veto any resolution. France wants a two-step approach: one resolution outlining demands on Saddam Hussein; the second, if necessary, authorizing force if those demands are not met.
Iraq says it has no weapons of mass destruction and has agreed to the return of U.N. weapons inspectors under existing U.N. rules.
President Bush says those inspectors must return with a stronger mandate than they had when they withdrew four years ago.
"For Iraq, the old weapons inspection process was little more than a game in which cheating was never punished. And that game is over," the president said. "The ploys and promises of the Iraqi regime no longer matter. The regime is free to continue saying whatever it chooses. Its fate depends entirely on what it actually does."
The president says he hopes Iraq can be disarmed peacefully, but if the United Nations does not act, he says the United States will lead its own coalition.
"Either the Iraqi regime will give up its weapons of mass destruction or, for the sake of peace, the United States will lead a global coalition to disarm that regime," he warned.
The United Nations Wednesday began debate on a resolution on Iraq. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the president is still hopeful the Security Council will take tough action to disarm Saddam Hussein.