President Bush is urging NATO members to stand strong and united against Iraq. But he is not seeking formal alliance backing for possible military action to disarm Baghdad.
The president has several messages for NATO leaders gathered in the Czech capital.
He says countering the threat posed by terrorists, rogue regimes and weapons of mass destruction should be the mission of the alliance. But at the same time, he says it is up to each nation to make up its own mind on the use of force.
Acknowledging there is opposition within NATO to military action against Baghdad, especially from the Germans, the president is speaking carefully in Prague. He stresses he will consult with allies before making any decisions. However, he also warns that, should Saddam Hussein defy the international demand to disarm, Iraq will face serious consequences.
"Saddam Hussein has been given a very short time to declare completely and truthfully his arsenal of terror," he said. "Should he again deny that this arsenal exists, he will have entered his final stage with a lie. And deception this time will not be tolerated."
Speaking to a group of European students in Prague, Mr. Bush said the world is uniting to answer what he called the unique and urgent threat posed by Iraq. "A dictator who has used weapons of mass destruction on is own people must not be allowed to produce or possess those weapons," said President Bush. "We will not permit Saddam Hussein to blackmail and or terrorize nations which love freedom."
The president linked disarming Iraq to the future relevance of NATO. He spoke of outlaw regimes with weapons of mass destruction, saying they are enemies of freedom and free nations must accept their obligations to defend freedom and keep the peace.