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Bush: UN Must Be Prepared to Take Strong Action to Disarm Iraq - 2003-02-13

President Bush says the United Nations must be prepared to take strong action to enforce its disarmament demands and rid Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush spoke at a U.S. naval base in Florida, where he rallied sailors and the nation for a possible war.

The president had a dual message. He told the sailors to be ready to fight, saying America will use "every ounce" of its power to defeat Saddam Hussein. At the same time, he urged the U.N. to live up to its responsibilities.

"The United Nations Security Council can now decide whether or not it has the resolve to enforce its resolutions," the president said.

Despite signs of opposition from other permanent members of the Security Council - France, China and Russia - Mr. Bush said he still believes the U.N. can ensure enforcement of its disarmament demands.

"I am optimistic that free nations will show backbone and courage in the face of true threats to peace and freedom," Mr. Bush said.

The president spoke to a crowd of sailors gathered on a pier at the Naval Station Mayport near Jacksonville, Florida. Part of the crowd formed a sea of Navy caps and blue uniforms in front of him, the rest lined up on the decks of ships docked nearby.

They cheered as the president spoke of the Iraqi threat, and vowed to defeat Saddam Hussein in the event of war.

Once again, he said the Iraqi leader is deceiving, not disarming. He said if it becomes necessary to use force, America will be fighting the oppressors of Iraq, not the people. He said the U.S. military fights not to conquer, but to liberate.

"This great nation is already putting plans and supplies into place so that food and other humanitarian relief will flow quickly to the Iraqi people," he said. "Even more than the defeat of terror, we seek an advance of freedom in a world at peace."

His voice was firm as he sought to prepare the military and the American public for possible war. To the sailors he said, simply, "you are called to defend our freedom."

"The American armed forces are brave and ready," the president said. "And in freedom's cause we will prevail."

On Friday the United Nations Security Council will get another report from the head of the U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq, Hans Blix. At the same time, Secretary of State Colin Powell will be meeting with officials from other Security Council members who want more time and personnel for inspections, and less talk of war.