Lajes, Azores Islands; 17 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush says today is a "moment of truth" for the world in regards to disarming the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Bush, speaking after a summit meeting yesterday on Portugal's Azores Islands with British Premier Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, said Hussein is a danger to his neighbors, a sponsor of terrorism, and an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Bush also said that the international community has to demonstrate its commitment to peace and security by supporting the immediate and unconditional disarmament of Hussein.
Bush added that Hussein can avert war by leaving Iraq. He also said 17 March is the last day for vote on a second Iraq UN Security Council resolution.
Blair said: "Now we have reached the point of decision and we make a final appeal for there to be that strong unified message on behalf of the international community that lays down a clear ultimatum to Saddam that authorizes force if he continues to defy the will of the whole of the international community set out in [U.N. Security Council Resolution] 1441." He added that: "We will do all we can in this short time that remains to make a final round of contacts to see whether there is a way through this impasse. But we are in the final stages, because after 12 years of failing to disarm [Saddam] now is the time when we have to decide."
French President Jacques Chirac yesterday reiterated his pledge to vote against the U.S.-British-Spanish resolution if it paves the way for the use of force.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington that the United States is urging the Turkish military to stay out of Iraq in case of a U.S.-led war. Powell said the United States has concerns that the possibility of Turkish forces in Iraq could lead to a conflict with Kurds.
Powell also said the U.S. still hopes that Turkey will allow U.S. troops to use the country as a "northern front" for a possible war on Iraq. He said that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will resubmit to parliament a proposal allowing U.S. forces to be stationed in Turkey ahead of an invasion.
In related events, hundreds of Turks today gathered in the port of Iskenderun to protest against U.S. military personnel unloading equipment for a possible war against Iraq.
In Baghdad, Hussein said today it was a "great lie" that Iraq still had banned weapons and accused the United States of appointing itself chief judge of the world.
"Who appointed America the unjust judge of the world so that it can say if this country has a weapon of a certain range that it should destroy?" Hussein told a group of military officers at a meeting shown on state television.
At the same time, he said, the United States was "allowing the evil-doers...like the Zionist entity to produce all kinds of weapons.... It is the right of every person to ask them: who appointed you a judge on us?" he said.