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'World Must Not Be Fooled by Iraqi Leader,' Says Bush - 2002-12-04

President Bush says it is too early to tell if weapons inspections in Iraq will fail or succeed, but he says Saddam Hussein must disarm. Mr. Bush says the world must not be fooled again by the Iraqi leader.

U.N. officials say the inspection process appears to be going well and Iraqi cooperation seems to be good.

But President Bush urges caution.

"We have doing this for five days after 11 years of deception and deceit," the president said.

He cautions the inspections are in their initial phase, and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has a long history of defiance.

"The process is just beginning and the world will determine soon whether or not Saddam Hussein is going to do what we asked, which is, in the name of peace, fully disarm," he said.

Mr. Bush says Americans and the world will no longer tolerate any attempt by Saddam Hussein to "play games" with international demands to disarm.

"This is not a game anymore of well, 'I will say one thing and do another.' We expect him to disarm and now it is up to him to do so and time will tell whether he is willing to do so," the president said.

White House officials say the president is not going to comment on day-to-day and hour-by-hour developments in the inspection process. Spokesman Ari Fleischer says the president is skeptical, but has never said he believes the process will fail.

In a brief session with reporters, Mr. Bush stuck to that theme. When asked about optimistic statements from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the president shifted gears, speaking in broad terms about the years in which Iraq said it would comply with the U.N., only to throw obstacles in the way of inspectors.

Mr. Bush said it is too early to make judgments. But he did note that Iraq has until December 8 to turn over a complete accounting of its weapons of mass destruction and related missile systems.

"Soon he will be making a declaration of whether he has any weapons. For years he said he didn't have any weapons," Mr. Bush noted. "And now we will be seeing whether or not he does. If he does, we expect them to be completely destroyed and a full accounting."

The president said, overall, Saddam Hussein's actions in recent days do not seem to indicate that he is anxious to comply. Once again, he said Iraq has fired on British and American planes patrolling the no-fly zones, and has expressed its defiance in lengthy letters to the U.N.