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Leading US Opposition Lawmaker Urges Bush to Make Case Against Iraq During State of Union Speech - 2003-01-28

A key Democratic U.S. senator is urging President Bush to use his State of the Union address to explain why military action might be necessary to disarm Iraq.

Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, voted last year for a congressional resolution authorizing the President to use of force to disarm Iraq.

But as administration officials signal that time is running out for Iraq to comply with U.N. weapons inspections and avoid war, Senator Biden is concerned that President Bush has not adequately explained to U.S. allies and the American people why military action may be necessary.

Mr. Biden is calling on the president to make his best case when he delivers his annual State of the Union address later Tuesday.

"Tell the American people what we are asking of them and why, for they have no idea what is expected of them, they do not know what the costs will be to remove Saddam [Hussein] and they should, how many troops will have to stay in Iraq to secure the country, and what will it take to get a representative government that lives up to international obligations," he said.

Mr. Biden agrees with the administration that if force is used, the United States should act with a coalition if possible, but alone if necessary. Still, Mr. Biden is urging the administration not to dismiss the concerns of U.S. allies who oppose military action against Iraq.

"We should lower the rhetoric," he said. "We should not appear to be the petulant nation wondering why the rest of the recalcitrant world will not act with us, showing our impatience. It is does not suit a great nation well."

Mr. Biden, who supports giving more time to U.N. weapons inspectors to do their job is calling on President Bush to share intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction with Americans and the world.

A key Republican, Senator John Warner of Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, agrees.

"I think it would be to the advantage of the president's effort to build a greater coalition than he now has of the friendly nations, the willing nations, to reveal additional information, provides it does not compromise our methods and collections in the intelligence field," he said.

The Bush administration is considering releasing as early as next week classified information supporting its argument that Iraq is in violation of U.N. resolutions.