United Nations, 12 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush urged the United Nations to enforce resolutions requiring Iraq to disarm, otherwise U.S. action against Iraq will be "unavoidable."
Bush told world leaders in the UN General Assembly that Iraq posed a mounting danger to international peace and security and that the United Nations had reached a pivotal moment.
Bush said the United States would work with other nations on a Security Council resolution to meet the challenge posed by Iraq. He said if the Iraqi government responded to this with further defiance, the world must move "deliberately and defiantly."
"Iraq has answered a decade of UN demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test and the United Nations -- a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?"
Bush's speech sought, in detail, to list how Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has defied UN Security Council resolutions. He said despite repeated pledges to disarm his weapons of mass destruction, there was numerous evidence throughout the 1990s that Iraq continued to develop its capacity to deploy biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons and improve its ballistic missile system.
He expressed some doubt about the ability of further inspections to reveal Iraq's weapons programs.
"We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger."
Before Bush spoke today, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the General Assembly that only the United Nations can authorize use of force in cases involving threats to international security.
"Any state, if attacked, retains the inherent right of self defense under Article 51 of the (UN) Charter. But beyond that, when states decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations."
Annan also urged Iraq to comply with Security Council resolutions for the sake of its own people and "world order." He said if Iraq's defiance continues, the Security Council "must face its responsibilities."
Annan said Iraq's impasse with the UN Security Council constituted one of four threats to world peace requiring effective action.The others, Annan said, are the Middle East, the India-Pakistan dispute, and Afghanistan's shaky reconstruction.
Bush's call for action through the United Nations was an apparent response to opposition by many UN members to unilateral U.S. action against Iraq.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell plans to meet tomorrow with other members of the UN Security Council on a resolution that would set a deadline for Iraq to comply with demands that it admit weapons inspectors.
Bush spoke as the leaders of many countries, including U.S. allies, have expressed reluctance -- even outright opposition -- to joining in any military action that the United States may decide to take against Iraq.
He added: "If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally foreswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles and all related material.... The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people. They have suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause and a great strategic goal."