Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he believes a large number of countries will be willing to participate in military action against Iraq in a showdown over Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Rumsfeld appears confident that the Bush administration will have broad support for military action against Baghdad, even without a fresh United Nations resolution explicitly authorizing the use of force.
Mr. Rumsfeld'S effort to minimize international opposition to a new Gulf war came at a news conference for foreign journalists. "There are a very large number of countries who have said regardless of whether there's a second resolution in the United Nations that they are anxious and willing and ready to join a coalition of the willing," he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld predicts that an even larger number of nations will be willing to join the coalition if there is a second U.N. resolution, regardless of what it says, even if it says merely that Iraq has not been cooperative with U.N. weapons inspectors.
In any event, the defense secretary says President Bush is likely to make public additional information about Iraqi weapons violations as well as Baghdad's links to terrorist groups if he decides to take military action.
"If the president decides it's necessary to use force because of a lack of cooperation on the part of Iraq, [he] would very likely present to the world some additional information," he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld dismisses the notion that the Muslim world is united in opposition to American policies. He insists many Muslims are unhappy with the extremists who are trying "to hijack that religion and urge terrorist attacks against the West."
He also dismisses the importance of French and German opposition to a new war, saying there is a new Europe whose center of gravity has shifted to the east where many new countries have joined the NATO alliance.
Mr. Rumsfeld again stresses that President Bush has made no decision yet about whether to use force against Iraq. He also says Baghdad can still avoid war, either by cooperating fully with weapons inspectors or by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein giving up power and going into exile.
The Rumsfeld news briefing was the first broadcast directly into Iraq by U.S. military Commando Solo airborne transmitters. Mr. Rumsfeld says it will be done regularly in the future.
"We're doing so because the truth matters and it's important, we believe, that the Iraqi people know the truth and hear the truth," he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld's comments came the same day the Pentagon disclosed that more than 20,000 additional reserve troops have been called to active duty as part of the continuing build-up of forces in anticipation of a new war.
General Richard Myers, the chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, says U.S. forces are prepared for war now but are also prepared to wait for months if necessary.