Bush to seek approval for action against Iraq
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration Thursday will give Congress a proposed resolution that explicitly authorizes the use of military force if President Bush concludes diplomacy will fail to get Iraq to keep its commitments to the United Nations, administration and congressional sources told CNN.
The draft will serve as the starting point of congressional negotiations on an Iraq resolution and sources said Wednesday it closely tracks prior congressional resolutions authorizing the use of military force.
In September 2001, Congress authorized "all necessary and appropriate force" against those deemed involved in planning or abetting the September 11 attacks on the United States.
A proposed resolution dealing with Iraq that was introduced in Congress in 1998 urged the president to "take all necessary and appropriate actions to respond to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs."
A senior official involved in the negotiations with Congress said those 2001 and 1998 resolutions, as well as the 1991 resolution authorizing the "use of United States Armed Forces" against Iraq were models for the White House in crafting the proposed resolution.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that any delay by Congress to approve the resolution "would signal the Iraqi regime that they can continue their violations of the U.N. resolutions."
"It's important that Congress send that message before the U.N. Security Council votes," he said. "Delaying a vote in Congress would send the wrong message, in my view, just as we are asking the international community to take a stand and as we are cautioning the Iraqi regime to respond and consider its options." (Full story)
Efforts at the United Nations
The new urgency on the Bush administration's part came as hopes of a U.S.-led consensus in the Security Council appeared to falter with Iraq's offer to allow U.N. weapons inspectors return.
Meanwhile, two former heads of U.N. weapons inspections teams in Iraq are warning against trusting Baghdad's commitments to readmit inspectors. (Full story)
After a late Wednesday meeting between U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, Annan issued a statement, saying he had "expressed the hope that the process of disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction could be completed as soon as possible."
He also "stressed the need for Iraq to provide full and unconditional cooperation to UNMOVIC (the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission)."
Past U.N. inspection teams have often been prevented from going to sites they wanted to inspect. The last time an inspection team was in Iraq was December 1998, when they complained of not being allowed to do their work and pulled out ahead of joint U.S.-British airstrikes. Inspectors have not been allowed back in since then.
Hans Blix, the head of UNMOVIC, will meet Thursday with the Security Council. He has also agreed to meet with Iraqi officials in Vienna, Austria, in 10 days in hopes of completing arrangements for the inspectors to return for the first time since 1998.
Sabri is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said Iraq's people will stand together to resist any attack.
"Iraq is highly ready to face to any aggression by the American administration of evil," Aziz said in a statement carried by the Iraqi state news agency INA.
'Reasonable people understand this man is unreasonable'
Bush said he is not concerned about the United States having to act unilaterally against Iraq.
"When we continue to make the case about his defiance, his deception -- the fact that time and time again, dozens of times, he [Saddam] has told the world, 'Oh, I will comply' and he never does -- that the nations which long for peace and care about the validity of the United Nations will join us," Bush said. "I think reasonable people understand this man is unreasonable."
Bush made his comments after a breakfast meeting at the White House with Vice President Dick Cheney and congressional leaders.
"It's an important signal for the world to see that this country is united in our resolve to deal with threats that we face," Bush said after talks with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota; Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi; House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois; and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri.
The bipartisan leadership promised Bush action within the next two weeks or so on a resolution backing the administration on Iraq. But the language of such a resolution remains the subject of debate.
"The president is going to suggest some language for us to consider and we are going to work together and try to get a resolution that will have the broadest possible support," Lott said after the meeting. "We are going to be dealing with this from the standpoint of what Congress feels is appropriate to say about the situation and what the president should be able to do."
"We are in a situation where we need strong bipartisan support in the United States to try to deal with these problems," Gephardt said. "Our highest priority is to make sure a weapon of mass destruction is not used here or anywhere."
-- CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.