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Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 03:50 GMT 04:50 UK
Congressional questions for Bush
Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has a survivor's sense of timing.

His 11th hour offer to re-admit weapons inspectors split the UN Security Council and complicates the Bush administration's efforts to push for regime change not only abroad but also at home.

Congressional leaders have lined up behind President Bush on the issue of Iraq, but Democrats also see an opportunity to attack Mr Bush and his Republican Party for poor stewardship on the economy.

Public support for waging war on Iraq is building, but Democrats hope that voters' concerns about the economy will haunt the president just as they haunted his father.

Guns and butter

Mr Bush said that he would seek congressional approval for a resolution backing the use of force against Iraq. Congressional leaders, including Democrats, quickly lined up to support the president.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle echoed members of the Bush administration in saying he was "still very sceptical about Saddam Hussein's intent and position".

He said that Congress could vote on a resolution on Iraq well before the 5 November mid-term elections.
Protestors disrupt Mr Rumsfeld's testimony
Polls show that protestors against attacking Iraq are in the minority

But on the same morning that he met with President Bush to discuss action on Iraq, Mr Daschle also launched a stinging attack on the president's handling of the economy.

On the floor of the Senate, Mr Daschle said: "Regardless of what it is we do with Iraq and the war on terrorism, I'd hope this administration can dedicate some of its time each week to economic security as well, ... to this atrocious record" on the economy.

After the attacks of 11 September a year ago, Mr Bush enjoyed unprecedented approval ratings.

Republicans hoped that they could leverage Mr Bush's popularity to victories in the midterm elections this November.

Control of Congress is key to Mr Bush's ability to push his domestic agenda. The split Senate shifted to Democrat control with the defection Senator Jim Jeffords from the Republican Party.

Democrats hope to use continued concerns about the economy to make a dent in the president's approval ratings that have recently rebounded to 70%.

Public opinion shifts

Going to the United Nations on the week the US paused to mark the first anniversary of the 11 September attacks, President Bush forcefully put the case to the UN.

The speech helped convince Americans that the US should use military force to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

A USAToday/CNN/Gallup poll showed that before Mr Bush's speech, only 39% of Americans thought the Bush administration had made its case for regime change.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

That figure jumped to 50% following his speech.

Support for sending ground troops to oust Saddam Hussein remained steady at 57%.

However, pollsters note that the new numbers do not take into account Iraq's decision to re-admit weapons inspectors.

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See also:

19 Sep 02 | Americas
18 Sep 02 | Middle East
18 Sep 02 | Middle East
18 Sep 02 | Politics
18 Sep 02 | Americas
18 Sep 02 | Middle East
17 Sep 02 | Americas
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