WASHINGTON -- President Bush expressed frustration Tuesday with allies reluctant to wage war against Iraq, saying Saddam Hussein has been given "ample time" to disarm and pledging anew to bind with like-minded world leaders to confront Baghdad.
"This business about more time, how much time do we need to see clearly that he's not disarming?" Bush told reporters after meeting with economists to tout his tax-cutting plan.
He was responding to suggestions from allies, including France and Germany, that they would wage a major diplomatic fight to prevent the Security Council from passing a war resolution against Iraq. Bush said he will lead a "coalition of the willing" to disarm Iraq, if necessary, as aides said he is willing to do so without the United Nations.
The United Nations weapons inspectors are due to report Jan. 27 on 60 days of searches for weapons on mass destruction. The Council tentatively plans to meet on Wednesday.
"Time is running out," Bush said. He said Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction and is a "serious threat" to the United States and its allies, many of whom want U.N. inspectors to have more time to do their work.
"It appears to be a rerun of a bad movie. He is delaying. He is deceiving. He is asking for time. He's playing hide and seek with inspectors. One thing for sure is, he's not disarming," Bush said. "So the United States of America, in the name of peace, will insist that he does disarm and we will keep pressure" on Iraq."
In a flash of impatience, Bush said of reluctant allies, "Surely our friends have learned lessons from the past."
"This looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I'm not interested in watching," he said.
Similarly, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iraq must "stop playing games" and get rid of its weapons of mass destruction.
Asked if the United States would attack without Security Council support, Powell said Iraq must be disarmed "one way or the other."
Powell spoke at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of Italy after a meeting at the State Department.
Asked if Italy would support a war with Iraq, Frattini said "we will have to read the report" the U.N. inspectors will file next week.
"Italy will support the United States," he said. "We will not pull back."
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said there were different views in the international community on how to proceed "but if Iraq is not disarming then we must have the guts to draw that conclusion."
He said Bush has made a decision that if the international community is unwilling to see that Iraq is disarmed, "then the United States and like-minded nations will have no choice but to step in the breach. We will take a stand."
Bush's broadside came amid rising resistance to war from France and other allies and after the White House earlier urged world leaders to avoid the "dead end road" of the 1990s when, it said, Iraq flouted U.N. resolutions against weapons of mass destruction.
"The world has seen this before," Fleischer said. "It was called the 90s. ... Many nations basically allowed Saddam Hussein to continue pursuit of weapons of mass destruction."
"History shows that if Saddam Hussein has a weapon he will use it. So the very notion that somehow Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction is an allowable event is not something the president agrees with," Fleischer said.
The White House released an "Apparatus of lies" report which maintained that Saddam has violated U.N. anti-arms resolutions in a variety of ways and cited:
- The discovery last week of undisclosed chemical warheads.
- "Ongoing intimidation of Iraqi scientists" who might shed light on the nation's weapons of mass destruction program.
- "Numerous chemical, biological and nuclear weapons stockpiles and programs unaddressed in the Iraqi declaration."
- The failure to cooperate with weapons inspectors, an assertion the administrations says is justified because Iraq has not shown the inspectors where the weapons are. Iraq says it has no weapons of mass destruction.
France told the Security Council there is no justification yet for military action against Saddam and hinted that it might veto any resolution authorizing that.
Fleischer said, "The United States will not go it alone." But he declined to list the countries that have pledged support to Bush.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has backed the U.S. stance of launching military action without U.N. support, said Tuesday, "We must not give a signal to Saddam that there is a way out of this. There is no way out for Saddam on this issue."
Meanwhile, the Army is sending its most modern combat division to the Persian Gulf region and the Navy is dispatching two aircraft carriers to join two others already within striking distance of Iraq, officials said Tuesday.
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