Washington, 8 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush says Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must disarm and prove that he has done so if he wants to avoid war with the United States. Bush told an audience in Chicago yesterday that if Hussein did not comply, the United States would lead "a coalition of the willing" to rid the Baghdad regime of weapons of mass destruction and to free the Iraqi people.
At the Pentagon, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he still hopes war can be avoided. Rumsfeld suggested that one way to do so would be for Hussein to step down and leave the country.
The United States maintains that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, including biological and chemical arms. Iraq has denied this. United Nations weapons inspectors have thus far uncovered no such programs.
When asked by a reporter whether the United States has any firm evidence to back up its allegations, Rumsfeld replied, "With respect to chemical weapons, we know they not only have had them, but they have used them, and with respect to biological weapons, the Central Intelligence Agency has said what it has said, and there is no doubt in my mind that they currently have chemical and biological weapons."
The United States has declared Iraq in "material breach" of a UN disarmament resolution for omitting key details of its suspected weapons of mass destruction in a 12,000-page declaration of its weapons submitted to the United Nations last month.