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Bush Administration Urges Military Action Against Iraq

By Karen DeYoung


President Bush Tuesday dismissed U.N. Security Council members who have said weapons inspectors should be given more time in Iraq, recalling that all of them, “including the French,” voted last November to impose “serious consequences” if Iraq did not disclose and dismantle all of its weapons of mass destruction programs.

“This business about, you know, more time -- you know, how much time do we need to see clearly that he’s not disarming?” Bush said of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. “This looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I’m not interested in watching it.”

Bush’s testy remarks, made in a brief White House exchange with reporters, came as the administration escalated its campaign against Saddam in a clear indication that it has begun a final effort to persuade the worlds’ governments and public that military action against Iraq is both justifiable and necessary.

The administration plans to lay out the various elements of its case in speeches and presentations over the next several weeks. The effort began Tuesday with a speech by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who said that Saddam’s “regime has very little time left. ... There is no sign, there is not one sign that the regime has any intent to comply” with United Nations demands.

On Thursday, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz will deliver the same message in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Bush’s State of the Union speech next Tuesday will include a heavy emphasis on Iraq, although senior officials said the president is not likely to make his formal public argument that the time has come for disarming Iraq by force, and removing Saddam from power, until next month.

Senior aides are anxious that Bush not appear to preempt a separate calendar of events at the Security Council, where Hans Blix, the head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Mohamed ElBaradei are due on Monday to make their first comprehensive report on Iraqi compliance with inspections that began two months ago. On Jan. 29, the day after Bush’s State of the Union speech, the council will convene to debate the report and decide what further steps to take.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the strongest U.S. ally on Iraq in the council, has scheduled a one-day visit with Bush at Camp David on Jan. 31. U.S. and diplomatic sources said that Blair was anxious that the two be seen to be having “a genuine consultation,” something that would be difficult if Bush had already declared the inspections over.

“The moment will come when the administration will want to make its case before the court of public opinion as well as the Security Council,” said one source. “They’ve only got one shot at it ... and there’s a tradeoff” between having the strongest possible evidence to present and “waiting so long that the moment passes.”