WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush yesterday scolded world leaders who are demanding more time to search Iraq for illegal arms, and a top U.S. diplomat warned that war is fast approaching as America’s only option.
“This business about more time – how much time do we need to see clearly that he’s not disarming?” Bush said, acknowledging frustration with both Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and reluctant U.S. allies like France and Germany.
“Surely our friends have learned lessons from the past. Surely, we have learned how this man deceives and delays,” Bush said. “This looks like a rerun of a bad movie, and I’m not interested in watching it.”
The chiding was part of an administration-wide effort to counter rising opposition to war that could jeopardize Bush’s fragile anti-Saddam coalition. With tens of thousands of U.S. troops massed near Iraq, the president is expected to decide in a matter of weeks whether to end diplomatic efforts and wage war.
“Our other options are just about exhausted at this point,” said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in a Washington speech cleared by the White House. “This regime has very little time left to undo the legacy of 12 years. There is no sign, there is not one sign that the regime has any intent to comply fully” with the United Nations.
France complicated Bush’s task by telling the United Nations Security Council there is no reason yet for military action, hinting it may veto any resolution authorizing an attack. Other nations – including Russia, Germany, China and Chile – have backed the French contention that U.N. inspections are starting to work and Iraq can be disarmed peacefully.
“I think the sense of the council is that the majority is against military action,” Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Gennady Gatilov, told The Associated Press.
Britain, America’s closest ally, is the only major military power committed to joining the United States. Other countries with smaller armies, such as Australia, Canada and Bulgaria, could play supporting roles in a “coalition of the willing” that Bush has pledged to lead if the United Nations won’t join him.
Turning up the heat on allies, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer warned anew that the United Nations’ very relevancy is dependent on its ability to disarm Iraq.
The Bush administration says Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction beneath the desert and in mobile facilities. Though no proof has been made public, Armitage said the 16 empty chemical warheads discovered recently in Iraq are the tip of the iceberg.
“Where are the other 29,984? Because that’s how many empty chemical warheads the U.N. Special Commission estimated he had, and he’s never accounted for,” Armitage said.