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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 23:23 GMT 00:23 UK
Bush urges US resolve against Iraq
Donald Rumsfeld before the House Armed Services Committee
Rumsfeld's testimony was interrupted by protests
The Bush administration is moving quickly to get domestic backing for a possible US attack on Iraq, despite Baghdad's offer to let weapons inspectors back in.

(Saddam Hussein) is not going to fool anybody

President Bush

President George W Bush - speaking after talks with Congressional leaders on Wednesday - said he would unveil as early as Thursday the wording of a resolution to be put before the US Congress authorising him to take military action against Iraq.

Mr Bush said the resolution would send the world an important signal of American determination, adding that President Saddam Hussein's offer to readmit inspectors was a "ploy".

But as the US appeared to move closer to a military option, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Iraq to co-operate with the inspectors.

In a meeting attended by Hans Blix, the chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Mr Annan told Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri he hoped the process of disarming of weapons of mass destruction could be completed as soon as possible.


US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for his part, has told a congressional committee that Iraq's "determination to develop weapons of mass destruction" required urgent action.

After his talks with senior members of the House of Representatives and Senate, President Bush a congressional resolution would send a vital message.

"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," he said.

Mr Bush again dismissed Iraq's offer on Monday to readmit arms inspectors.

President George W Bush
Bush wants freedom to take military action
He said Saddam Hussein had made similar offers in the past, but has always refused unfettered access to the inspectors.

"This is a ploy, a tactic," Mr Bush said. "He is not going to fool anybody."

Mr Rumsfeld echoed Mr Bush's message in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

"No terrorist state poses a greater and more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq," Mr Rumsfeld said.

He said the goal was not inspection, but disarmament.

Mr Rumsfeld added that it was only a matter of time before terrorists tried to use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

The responsible course of action, he said, was "to take steps to deal with such a threat" before it any attacks happen.

Mr Rumsfeld's testimony was briefly disrupted by protesters, who waved banners and shouted anti-war slogans before being escorted out of the hearing room.

Council split

Baghdad's agreement to allow arms inspectors to return "without conditions" appears to have split the UN Security Council.

US B2 stealth bomber
B2s bombers are being deployed in the Indian ocean

The US is continuing to push for a new resolution backed up by the threat of military action - a position supported by the UK, which has expressed scepticism about the Iraqi offer.

However Russia said no new resolution was necessary, and urged the "speedy return" of inspectors to Iraq.

The US, the UK and Russia, as permanent members of the Security Council, wield the power of veto.

The other two permanent members are China, which welcomed the offer, and France, which said the council "must hold Saddam Hussein to his word".

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

The BBC's UN correspondent, Jon Leyne, says Iraq's move has caused more confusion at the UN than its defiance ever did.

The Security Council met in private on Tuesday, but members could not even decide when to begin discussing the Iraq situation, our correspondent said.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has said Baghdad's pledge to readmit weapons inspectors had removed any justification for a US-led attack.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Baghdad says that after weeks of mounting tension ordinary Iraqis have breathed a sigh of relief, and believe that war has been delayed.

Despite the diplomatic moves, the US is continuing to shift military hardware close to Iraq, apparently in preparation for a possible strike.

The BBC's Matt Frei
"Mr Rumsfeld is a man who does not mince his words"
The BBC's James Robbins
"There is going to be diplomatic wrangling"

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See also:

18 Sep 02 | Middle East
17 Sep 02 | Middle East
18 Sep 02 | Politics
18 Sep 02 | Americas
18 Sep 02 | Middle East
17 Sep 02 | Americas
16 Sep 02 | Americas
18 Sep 02 | Media reports
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