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'Time is Running Out' for Iraq to Disarm, says Bush - 2003-01-16

President Bush says "time is running out" for Saddam Hussein to disarm. The president's comments came as U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq say they have found 11 empty chemical warheads.

Weapons inspectors in Baghdad say they found the empty warheads in "excellent condition" Thursday inside a series of military bunkers built in the late 1990s.

Inspectors collected samples from the 122-milimeter warheads that are designed to carry chemical agents. A U.N. statement says a 12th warhead required further evaluation.

White House officials say they are waiting to hear more about the discovery, which came as President Bush told a rally in the eastern state of Pennsylvania that he is confronting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to force him to disarm.

"So far the evidence hasn't been very good that he is disarming," he said. "And time is running out. At some point in time, the United States' patience will run out. In the name of peace, if he does not disarm, I will lead a coalition of the willing to disarm Saddam Hussein."

While President Bush says he has still not decided whether to use force in Iraq, the buildup of U.S. troops in the Gulf region is expected to be complete by mid-February.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says a U.N. report due January 27 will be an important part of deciding whether there will be war. Beyond that date, Mr. Fleischer told reporters, "events will dictate timetables."

U.N. weapons inspectors say they need more time to complete their search for banned weapons. International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei says he will ask the Security Council to extend the mandate of U.N. inspectors in Iraq by several months.

U.S. officials want that work finished sooner and are asking the Security Council to keep inspectors on a strict timetable. The Bush Administration is also resisting calls from European allies to seek a second resolution from the Security Council before using force against Iraq.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says Iraq must cooperate more actively if it wants to avoid war. Iraqi officials Thursday promised full cooperation and again said that their country is free of weapons of mass destruction.