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Bush Administration to Congress: Many Nations Will Support US - 2003-03-18


Bush administration officials are assuring skeptical U.S. lawmakers that the United States will have a broad international coalition in a looming war to disarm Iraq.

Members of Congress, including some Republicans, have expressed concern that the United States did not succeed in getting U.N. Security Council support for a draft resolution effectively authorizing war against Iraq.

Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, underscored the point at a Senate Foreign Relations hearing. "Today, even as American military and economic might stand unchallenged around the world, we need the rest of the world more than ever before," he said.

But Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman told the committee that, despite opposition to military action among members of the U.N. Security Council, the United States will have broad international support for a war against Iraq.

"Although we may have a limited number of people with us on the ground, there will be a quite large number of people who will consider themselves part of this coalition, who will give overflight rights or basing rights or other support," he said. I do not feel we are going to be alone in this."

Mr. Grossman made his comments as Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters that 45 nations back military action against Iraq, one-third of which are declaring their support privately.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, is taking issue with Democrats who argue that President Bush is to blame for failing to win new U.N. Security Council backing for pending war.

"The failure of diplomacy to deter Saddam Hussein does not date back to the past four-and-a-half months or to the beginning of the President's term," he said. The failure of diplomacy traces back through 12 years of defiance by Saddam Hussein, 12 years of deceit by his regime, 12 years of slowly eroding international resolve even among our allies, while all the time the threat to this country has grown closer and closer and closer."

Mr. Frist spoke on the Senate floor during a break in debate over the president's budget proposal for next year.

Democrats continued to criticize the Bush administration for not sending Congress cost estimates of military action against Iraq or post-war reconstruction of the country.

"The cost of conflict is not zero, and that is the number that is in this budget," said Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee. "That is what the president has sent us in a budget, that there is not cost. That defies common sense."

President Bush is expected to send Congress a supplemental budget request later this month to cover the costs of the military action and post-war reconstruction. News reports have said the package could total as much as $95 billion.