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Bush Says World is 'Days Away' From Iraq Decision - 2003-03-06


President Bush said he is in the "final stages" of diplomacy before deciding whether to use military force in Iraq. The president made his case against Iraq Thursday on the eve of a key report by U.N. weapons inspectors.

President Bush said the world is "days away" from deciding how to deal with Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction.

France, Russia, and China want to continue U.N. weapons inspections. President Bush wants the Security Council to enforce earlier warnings of "serious consequences" if Iraq does not disarm.

With a vote now days away following Friday's report from U.N. weapons inspectors, Mr. Bush says "diplomacy hasn't worked" in Iraq, and he is ready to use force regardless of what the Security Council decides. "If we need to act, we will act, and we really don't need United Nations approval to do so," he said.

The president says he has still not decided whether to go to war. But if he does, Mr. Bush says U.S. troops will oust Saddam Hussein and put in place what he calls a "just nation" that represents all Iraqis.

Should the Iraqi leader go into exile, Mr. Bush says that would be fine with him, as long as the country gives-up suspected stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

The president dismissed those who want to give Iraq more time to comply with weapons inspections, saying if Saddam Hussein was serious about disarming, he would have already done so. "Inspection teams do not need more time or more personnel. All they need is what they have never received: the full cooperation of the Iraqi regime," he said. "Token gestures are not acceptable."

Mr. Bush said the only acceptable outcome is Iraq's complete disarmament. Anything less than that would threaten the United States and its allies, he said, because Iraq could help terrorists use weapons of mass destruction. "The risk of doing nothing, the risk of hoping that Saddam Hussein changes his mind and becomes a gentle soul, the risk that somehow inaction will make the world safer is a risk I am not willing to take for the American people," he said.

France says attacking Iraq would likely lead to more terrorist attacks. President Bush says disarming Saddam Hussein is part of the fight against terrorism because of what he says is the Iraqi leader's support for al-Qaida terrorists though responsible for the September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.