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Iraqi Disarmament is Only Way to Avoid War, says Bush - 2003-02-25

U.S. President George W. Bush says the only way to avoid war with Iraq is for Saddam Hussein to totally disarm.

Only Saddam Hussein can prevent war, he stressed. "The man has been told to disarm," he said. "For the sake of peace he must completely disarm."

Mr. Bush says he hopes the U.N. will adopt the resolution introduced Monday by the United States, Britain and Spain. But he says he does not need it to launch military action, should Iraq refuse to disarm voluntarily.

"It would be helpful and useful but I do not believe we need a second resolution," Mr. Bush said. "Saddam Hussein has not disarmed. He may play like he is going to disarm, but he has not disarmed."

The president spoke to reporters at the end of a meeting with his economic advisors. He was asked about the cost of a possible war and its impact on the U.S. economy. Mr. Bush said he is concerned about the economic future of the United States, but added the cost of doing nothing could be far greater than the cost of war.

"There are people who worry about the future. I understand that," he said. "And I worry about the future. I worry about a future in which Saddam Hussein gets to blackmail and/or attack."

He said he is only too aware of the many sacrifices the use of force would entail. He talked about the lives that would be put at risk, and renewed a warning to Iraq's civilian and military leaders.

"It is important for Iraqi leadership and Iraqi generals to understand that if they take innocent life, if they destroy infrastructure, they will be held to account as war criminals."

Earlier, Mr. Bush met with the Prime Minister of Bulgaria as part of his ongoing consultations with members of the U.N. Security Council.

White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said Mr. Bush remains confident the new resolution will pass the council. He acknowledged the resolution would not be approved unanimously, and added the president is hopeful it will not be vetoed.