U.S. President George W. Bush made it clear in his speech before the General Assembly on Thursday that if the United Nations doesn’t take joint action against Iraq and Saddam Hussein, then the United States will.
U.S. President George W. Bush addresses a "grave and growing" danger.
United States President George W. Bush made his most forceful case yet for military action against Iraq during a speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations on Thursday, one day after the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Saying the United Nations would "be irrelevant" if it didn't "move deliberately and decisively to hold Iraq to account" for UN resolutions it has repeatedly thumbed its nose at for the past decade, Bush sought international support to move against Saddam Hussein, whom he described as a “grave and gathering danger.”
Bush accused the Iraqi government of possessing chemical and biological weapons, and said the country would be capable of building a nuclear bomb within a year if it were able to acquire material capable of fission. He also ticked off a list of each UN Security Council resolution, carefully citing numbers, that the Iraqis continue to violate.
“By breaking every pledge -- by his deceptions, and by his cruelties -- Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself,” Bush said.
”We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather," Bush told the General Assembly. "We must stand up for our security and for the permanent rights and hopes of mankind." Throughout his speech, news cameras focused on the Iraqi delegates, who wore headphones and listened observantly.
Bush also made clear his government's intention of forcing Iraq to adhere to the resolutions. "By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand," the president said. "Delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand, as well!"
Wire services quoted unnamed senior American officials saying the U.S. would meet with Russia, China, France and Britain -- the four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- on Friday to develop a resolution that would force Iraq to allow inspectors to reenter the country and pave the way for possible future military intervention if it fails to comply.
At the same time, Bush offered an olive branch to critics within the UN and Europe by announcing the intention of the U.S. to reenter UNESCO, which it quit in 1984 due to political differences.
Speaking to a split Europe
The United Nations speech comes at a time when Europe has split over whether it should support an Iraq invasion. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has dug his heels into the ground in recent weeks, saying he would not permit his military to aid such an effort even it were under a U.N. mandate. Other European governments, including Britain, France, Spain and Italy, have said they would consider military action against Hussein's regime under the auspices of a U.N. mission.
European Union analysts have described the split as the first major challenge to the EU’s common foreign and defense policy, which came into effect in 1999.
Despite the growing rift between the U.S. and Germany, long one of its closest allies, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told a public radio station on Thursday morning that his government's stance hasn't affected the solidarity Germany feels with the U.S.
"If we have serious concerns, then we need to say them," said Fischer, who was in New York to represent Germany at Sept. 11 memorial ceremonies.
Fischer said the international coalition against terror was set up to fight against terrorists. The coalition should not be used to "connect regional conflicts to this terrorism fight and weapons of mass destruction."
He said the Israeli-Palestinian peace process needs to be solved first. Regional stability in the Middle East following any Iraq action is extremely important, he said.
"Those questions have not been answered to date," Fischer said.
German intelligence says evidence scant
Another area of concern for Germans has been the dearth of evidence that Hussein is amassing a stockpile of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
German officials say there is little if any evidence that Iraq has had little opportunity to develop a nuclear arsenal, even after the departure of UN UNSCOM weapons inspectors at the end of 1998. Though there is evidence that experts in Iraq are seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, they haven't made much progress.
In a report in the Thursday edition of the "Berliner Zeitung," an unidentified senior official at the Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany's foreign intelligence agency, said: "Our knowledge leads us to doubt that these programs are approaching a successful conclusion."
The official conceded that the volume of information flowing out of Iraq had diminished since UNSCOM inspectors were forced to leave the country. "Nonetheless, we are still learning a lot about Iraq's weapons programs," he told the paper.
In an Octber 1999 report, the Bundesnachrichtendienst concluded in a report that the nuclear weapons facilities in Iraq uncovered by UN inspectors had been deemed unusable. The agency said it would take three to five years before the facilities could be restored to their capacity of 1990, the high point of Iraq's nuclear program. Still, the report also concluded that Iraq could be in possession of chemical and biological weapons that were not found and destroyed by inspectors.
London think tank offers dossier of "proof"
Earlier this week, however, the London-based Institute for International Studies (IISS) issued a report highly supportive of Bush’s case. The report alleges that Iraq still possesses stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons that weren’t destroyed during the Gulf War and were later hidden from U.N. weapons inspectors. Additionally, the IISS report stated that the country still maintains the scientific talent and wherewithall to rebuild its nuclear weapons program, and that it could create a functioning nuclear weapon with in months if it got a hold of fissile material.