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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 06:46 GMT 07:46 UK
Saddam laughing at UN, says Bush
Jet takes off from USS Abraham Lincoln
US forces are on standby in the Arabian Sea
US President George W Bush has said the United Nations "must have backbone" to hold Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to account over his weapons programme.

"He has defied the United Nations for 11 years," Mr Bush said.

We know too that several of the detainees... have said that Iraq provided some training to al-Qaeda in chemical weapons development

Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Adviser
"He must be laughing when he hears about the United Nations and its resolutions, and that's not good for the health of the world."

Mr Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice said the US had information that "Iraq provided some training to al-Qaeda in chemical weapons development".

Correspondents say this is the first time Washington has tried to substantiate its allegations of a direct link between Iraq and al-Qaeda - the group believed to have masterminded the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

Ms Rice said the information came from al-Qaeda detainees.

UN's choice

Mr Bush - speaking at a Republican party function - said that Saddam Hussein "must destroy his weapons of mass destruction and stop his lying", adding that "the choice is his to make".

But he also said the UN was also facing a choice between upholding its own resolutions on Iraq or risking becoming an ineffective League of Nations.

"The choice is theirs [the UN's]. But if they choose not to, for the sake of our future, for the sake of our freedom, we will not let the world's worst leader threaten us, blackmail us, or hurt us with the world's worst weapons," Mr Bush said.

He [Saddam Hussein] must be laughing when he hears about the United Nations and its resolutions

President George W Bush
At the United Nations in New York, diplomats are still waiting to see a proposed draft resolution on Iraq.

The BBC's Liz Blunt says that not every member of the Security Council thinks a new resolution is needed, but they know that Washington is determined to have one, and they are prepared at least to discuss it.

Diplomats say that arguments are still taking place in Washington about what kind of resolution they want to put forward and how strong they want it to be.

In London, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said Russia, China and France are closer to accepting the need for a fresh United Nations resolution about Iraq.

Russia has said it is prepared to consider a new resolution.

But Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has dismissed a dossier on the dangers of the Iraqi regime published by the British Government on Tuesday.

He said it was not worth creating a "great propaganda furore" over the document.

Domestic splits

Mr Bush's latest comments came as a fierce dispute continued between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has demanded an apology from Mr Bush for suggesting that the opposition Democrats were not concerned about US security.

In an angry and impassioned speech on the floor of the Senate, the normally measured and softly spoken Mr Daschle said President Bush had insulted Democrats when he said the Democrat-controlled Senate was "not interested in the security of the American people".

Democratic Senator Thomas Daschle
Daschle's criticism of the president was unusually harsh
"You tell those who fought in Vietnam, those who fought in World War II they're not interested in the security of the American people," Mr Daschle said.

As the November congressional elections approach, Mr Bush's Republican administration is focussing attention on its war on terror and confronting Iraq.

Democrats, who would like to draw attention to the suffering US economy, are concerned that Republicans are politicising national security issues for party political ends.

"That is wrong. We ought not politicise this war. We ought not politicise the rhetoric about war and life and death," Mr Daschle told the Senate.

On Tuesday, the man Mr Bush defeated in the last presidential race, Al Gore, said the administration's approach to Iraq would detract from the main US task of pursuing those responsible for the 11 September attacks on America.

David Chazan reports
"Dissent has surfaced even within the United States"
President George W Bush
"The United Nations must be strong enough to hold Saddam Hussein to account"
The Non-Proliferation Project's Joseph Cirincione
"Everyone's asking if there's any role for NATO here and why the US isn't asking for their help"
The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"Nuclear inspection teams are being readied"

Key stories





See also:

25 Sep 02 | Middle East
24 Sep 02 | Americas
24 Sep 02 | Politics
23 Sep 02 | Panorama
23 Sep 02 | Middle East
16 Sep 02 | Middle East
22 Sep 02 | Middle East
19 Sep 02 | Americas
24 Sep 02 | Americas
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