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Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Bush seeks a stronger hand
The US Congress being addressed by President Bush
Officials want Congress to give Bush "flexibility"

Saddam Hussein's offer to allow weapons inspectors back in might have thrown the Security Council into confusion.

It has made the Bush administration - and the US Congress - more militant.

Congressional leaders have suddenly come round to the idea of supporting the president with a strongly-worded resolution approving the use of force against Saddam if Mr Bush decides it is necessary.

It might be that congressional minds have been concentrated by the forthcoming elections on 5 November.

President Bush is also arguing that he needs domestic support in order to stiffen the resolve of the United Nations.

Such a resolution could come within a couple of weeks. Congress is due to adjourn on 4 October.

Maximum flexibility

Administration officials want it to give "maximum flexibility" to the president and allow him to act with or without United Nations approval.


This is a ploy

Senator Tom Daschle
It would hugely strengthen his hand in dealing with Saddam.

Even the mild mannered Senate Majority leader, Democrat Tom Daschle is talking tough. He said of the Saddam offer: "This is a ploy."

The leader of the minority Democrats in the House of Representatives Dick Gephardt added his support to Mr Bush: "We've got to be together in the United States supporting the diplomatic and military, if necessary, to solve this problem."

No wait for smoking gun

The case for congressional action was put forcibly by the Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to the House Armed Service Committee: "If someone is waiting for a so-called smoking gun," he said "it's certain we will have waited too long. The last thing we want is a smoking gun. A gun smokes when it has been fired."


Mr Bush is struggling to reconcile the tough American approach with his commitment to give the UN a chance

In passing, Mr Rumsfeld raised the intriguing possibility that Saddam Hussein might go into exile - as numerous dictators have done in the past.

Mr Bush is also struggling to reconcile the tough American approach with his commitment to give the United Nations a chance.

The American tactic is to get the Security Council to pass a new resolution giving Iraq both a tight timetable to allow the inspectors in to do their work and a threat that force could be used if it does not comply.

The resolution would declare, US officials hope, that Iraq was already in "material breach" of numerous previous resolutions. This would make it easier to justify resorting to force to make sure that Iraq disarms under Resolution 687 passed in 1991 after the Gulf War.

Shorter timetable

American and British diplomats also want a much shorter timetable for the inspection teams to report back than the 60 days they are given in the last resolution inspection, 1284, passed in 1999.

Their fear is that, otherwise, Iraq will spin out the process over the winter.

However, Russia says no new resolution is needed at the moment.


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17 Sep 02 | Americas
17 Sep 02 | Americas
17 Sep 02 | Middle East
17 Sep 02 | Politics
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16 Sep 02 | Middle East
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