President Bush says he is making one last attempt to disarm Iraq through diplomatic means. But Mr. Bush says he does not think Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will ever meet U.N. disarmament demands.
With the U.N. considering ideas for a new resolution on Iraq, President Bush makes clear that this could be the last chance to resolve the matter diplomatically. "We have tried diplomacy. We are trying it one more time," he said.
He says he believes Iraq could be disarmed peacefully. But he adds if peaceful means fail, the world must be prepared to act.
"I believe the free world, if we make up our mind to, can disarm this man peacefully," he said. "But if not, we have the will and the desire as do other nations to disarm Saddam. It is up to him to make that decision. And it is up to the United Nations. And we will determine here soon whether the United Nations has got the will and then it is up to Saddam to make the decision."
Mr. Bush spoke to reporters at the end of a meeting with NATO Secretary General George Robertson, a session that focused, in part, on Iraq.
The president was asked if regime change remains the policy of the United States and if there has been any softening in the U.S. position. "The stated policy of the United States is regime change because for 11 years, Saddam Hussein has ignored the United Nations and the free world," he said.
But what if the Iraqi leader gives in to all the demands the president outlined in his speech last month to the United Nations General Assembly, demands included in various U.N. resolutions adopted at the end of the Gulf War? The president said that would be a complete turnaround for Saddam Hussein and would amount to a regime change. But Mr. Bush quickly added he does not think its likely to happen.
"We don't believe he is going to change. However, if he were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations, conditions that I described very clearly in terms everybody can understand, that in itself will signal the regime has changed," he said.
President Bush spoke as American diplomats prepared to circulate a proposed U.N. resolution which contains a warning that defiance of the United Nations will result in "consequences" for Baghdad. White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters the proposal calls for a much tougher and more effective weapons inspection system.