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Key Democrats Speak Out to Slow US Move Toward War - 2003-01-30

Two key Senate Democrats have taken steps to slow U.S. efforts toward possible war against Iraq.

Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia say President Bush has failed to make a compelling case for possible military action against Iraq.

Their comments come a day after President Bush used his State of the Union address to warn that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is running out of time to disarm, and that the United States is prepared to use force to resolve the standoff.

Senator Byrd is offering a resolution calling on the administration to seek United Nations authorization for any use of force against Iraq.

Senator Kennedy's resolution calls on the administration to seek Congressional authorization.

"If we rush to pull the trigger against Iraq, we will invite catastrophe and condemnation," he said. "America, which has long been a beacon of freedom for people around the world, will turn into a symbol of brute force and aggression. The world may come to see us as a dangerous rogue state, needing to be contained and deterred."

Although both houses of Congress last year approved a resolution authorizing the president to use force, Mr. Kennedy argues that conditions have changed.

Republicans, and a few Democrats, argue the president already has the authority he needs to use force, if necessary, against Iraq.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, argues Saddam Hussein poses a grave threat to the world and must be dealt with sooner rather than later.

"The price of his deception, and if allowed to continue unchecked, could have catastrophic consequences for the United States, which none of us, no matter how we voted on the Iraq resolution, could ever countenance," he said.

On Thursday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte will discuss the U.N. weapons inspectors' report released to the Security Council this week. Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has accused Iraq of failing to fully cooperate with the inspections process.