Washington, 17 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has signed a resolution approved overwhelmingly by Congress that authorizes him to launch a military attack on Iraq.
Speaking at the White House on 16 October, Bush urged world leaders to face up to their global responsibility to confront Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "With this resolution, Congress has now authorized the use of force. I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary. Yet, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is necessary by whatever means that requires."
The president used the speech to press the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution compelling Iraq to submit to unconditional weapons inspections.
The president said military action would be his last resort. But he said America's goal is to fully eliminate a threat to world peace. "Either the Iraqi regime will give up its weapons of mass destruction, or for the sake of peace, the United States will lead a global coalition to disarm that regime. If any doubt our nation's resolve, our determination, they would be unwise to test it."
Bush's message came as the UN Security Council started its first day of open debate on Iraq at the behest of the dozens of non-Security Council nations who oppose an attack on Baghdad. The United States seeks a single resolution that would authorize it to take military action, if necessary. France favors a two-resolution approach, authorizing force only as a last resort. Russia and China have both been reluctant to grant any use of force. Bush said: "Every nation that shares in the benefits of peace also shares in the duty of defending the peace. The time has arrived, once again, for the United Nations to live up to the purposes of its founding, to protect our common security."
The signing by the president was a formality but the White House chose to hold a ceremony for it complete with several members of Congress and top cabinet officers. Two key Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri were absent.
The joint resolution was approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate last week after a debate over whether Iraq and its suspected weapons of mass destruction pose an imminent threat.
The UN Inspectors have not been permitted to do their jobs for four years. Baghdad has accused them of being spies for America. The inspectors were invited back to Iraq recently after Washington put pressure on Saddam. But Bush says Iraq is just stalling. "For Iraq, the old weapons inspection process was little more than a game in which cheating was never punished and that game is over. The ploys and promises of the Iraqi regime no longer matter. The regime is free to continue saying whatever it chooses. Its fate depends entirely on what it actually does."
Bush pledged to help Iraq reform once it has a government "committed to the freedom and well-being of its people." The president said he has been carefully weighing the human costs of every option before the United States.