President Bush met Friday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss possible military action in Iraq. The men discussed the possibility of a second U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.
President Bush says he and Prime Minister Blair both agree that time is running out for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to give-up weapons of mass destruction.
"He must disarm. And that's why I have constantly said and the Prime Minister has constantly said that this issue will come to a head in a matter of weeks not months," said Mr. Bush.
Prime Minister Blair said the challenge of disarming Iraq should be shared by the whole of the international community now that U.N. weapons inspectors say Iraq is not cooperating.
"This is a test for the international community," he said. "It's not just a test for the United States or for Britain. It's a test for the international community too. And the judgment has to be at the present time that Saddam Hussein is not cooperating with inspectors and therefore is in breach of the U.N. resolution and that is why time is running out."
If Iraq does not disarm, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair went on to say, they will join a coalition of other nations to force Iraq to turn-over illegal weapons. Some European allies say any use of force against Iraq must first be approved by the Security Council.
Prime Minister Blair would prefer a second resolution authorizing that use of force. White House officials said that would be "desirable but not mandatory."
For President Bush, the existing U.N. resolution already gives him the authority to attack Iraq, but he would welcome a second resolution as long as it does not drag the inspection process on for months.
"Should the United Nations decide to pass a second resolution, it would be welcomed if it is yet another signal that we are intent upon disarming Saddam Hussein," he said. "But 1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution and Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm, for the sake of peace, we, along with others, will go disarm Saddam Hussein."
The president's meeting with his closest ally on Iraq comes during what the Bush administration calls "the final phase" of diplomacy before deciding on military action.
The president is sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to the U.N. next week with what he says is evidence that Iraq is hiding illegal weapons and is helping terrorists, including the al-Qaida group thought responsible for the September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.
"Secretary Powell will make a strong case about the danger of an armed Saddam Hussein. He will make it clear that Saddam Hussein is fooling the world, or trying to fool the world," emphasized Mr. Bush.
Prime Minister Blair continues his efforts to rally European support for military action against Iraq in a meeting Tuesday with French President Jacques Chirac.