President Bush says he is ready to use force against Iraq, if the country does not disarm. Mr. Bush and his allies want to give Iraq until March 17 to comply with U.N. disarmament demands, or face military action.
President Bush says the United States is in the final stages of diplomacy with the United Nations to try and end the dispute with Iraq peacefully. "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq," he said. "But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force."
In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush said the Iraqi leader is a threat because he could help terrorists use weapons of mass destruction against the United States. "The cause of peace will be advanced only when the terrorists lose a wealthy patron and protector, and when the dictator is fully and finally disarmed," said President Bush.
France and Russia are threatening to veto a U.S., British, and Spanish resolution that would move the conflict closer to war by vowing to enforce earlier demands of "serious consequences" if Iraq does not disarm.
An amendment to that resolution, which will likely come up for a vote next week, would give Iraq until March 17 to comply with U.N. demands, or face military action.
France, Russia, and China are backing a counter-proposal to extend weapons inspections.
Mr. Bush says that would only give Iraq more time to hide illegal weapons, and further divide the international community. "If the Iraqi regime were disarming, we would know it, because we would see it," he said. "Iraq's weapons would be presented to inspectors and destroyed. 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. The only acceptable outcome is the outcome already demanded by a unanimous vote of the Security Council: total disarmament."
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix Friday said Iraq is making progress in cooperating with inspections, but is still falling short of total disarmament. Iraq says it has no illegal weapons.
President Bush says he will not be swayed by international opposition to using force in Iraq, or domestic criticism that the issue is distracting Mr. Bush from dealing with a weak economy.
In the Democratic response to the president's weekly radio address, California Governor Gray Davis said the Bush administration and the Republican-led Congress have failed to help states and local governments pay for the increased costs of the fight against terrorism. "We agree with the president that, in order to be strong abroad, we must be strong at home,' said Governor Davis. "But what his administration doesn't tell you is that the burden for homeland security is borne primarily by states and local communities."
The new Homeland Security Department Friday announced it will make grants available for $566 million worth of assistance to help local jurisdictions pay for anti-terrorism efforts.