WASHINGTON – The United Nations must set out to protect the world from the likes of Saddam Hussein, President Bush told the international body Thursday morning.
Bush cited Iraq as an example of a rogue regime that poses an immediate threat in its willingness to act against other nations or assist terrorist groups.
"In one place and one regime, we find all these dangers in their most lethal and aggressive forms, exactly the kind of aggressive threat the United Nations was born to confront," Bush told the General Assembly. "Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself."
After appeasing the U.N. by announcing that the U.S. would return to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Bush told the international body that Iraq must comply with U.N. sanctions or be punished accordingly.
"We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions, but the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced. The just demands of peace and security must be met or action will be unavoidable and a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power."
"Events can turn in one of two ways," Bush said.
Armed with a point-by-point list of Saddam Hussein's transgressions included in a White House paper entitled "A Decade of Defiance and Deception of the United Nations," the president detailed how Saddam has continued to develop weapons of mass destruction, engaged in egregious human-rights violations, participated in international terrorism, sought to evade economic sanctions and kept Kuwaiti property that should have been returned after the 1991 Gulf War.
Bush said Saddam has engaged in systematic human rights violations, including the "arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution and torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation and rape" of tens of thousands of Iraqis.
"[Saddam] has fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Israel. He has gassed many Iranians and 40 Kurdish villages."
"From 1991-1995 the Iraqi regime said it had no biological or chemical weapons," Bush said. After a science team defected, Iraq admitted that it had enough anthrax to load it onto SCUD missiles and in other dispersal mechanisms.
"United Nations inspections also reviewed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons," Bush said.
"Open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder," he added.
After the president's speech, Iraq's U.N. ambassador accused Bush of speaking out of revenge and political ambition.
"He chooses to deceive the world and his own people by the longest series of fabrications that have ever been told by a leader of a nation," Ambassador Mohamed al-Douri said. He added that Iraq would take all measures to defend itself it attacked by the United States.
The president's speech differed significantly from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's opening remarks, in which he put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ahead of Iraq on a list of four critical threats that will test the leadership of the international body.
Listing Afghanistan and the India-Pakistan conflict as the other top crises around the globe, Annan slighted the United States, which has taken a cautious approach to U.N. activities since even before the inclusion of Libya on a human rights panel.
"The more a country makes use of multilateral institutions, thereby respecting shared values and accepting the obligations and restraints inherent in those values, the more others will trust and respect it and the stronger its chance to exercise true leadership," Annan said.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Annan said the sequential approach to peace has failed and a roadmap of parallel steps is needed to ease the threat to Israel's security, strengthen the Palestinians' economic and political institutions, reach a final peace agreement and improve the humanitarian situation.
Bush said that the United States stands on the side of the creation of an independent state of Palestine, and will stand up to the requirements needed to be met to achieve that state.
On Iraq, Annan said that he "has engaged Iraq on a range of issues including the need for arms inspectors to return in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions. Efforts to obtain Iraq's compliance with the Council's resolution must continue."
While Annan urged leaders with influence on Saddam to stress the case, he did not lay out what action the United Nations would take if Iraq failed to comply with U.N. demands.
"If Iraq's defiance continues, the council must face its responsibilities," Annan said.
Bush, however, said Iraq's defiance to date should be enough to push the U.N. to act.
Bush cited the U.N. Special Commission's own reports as well as a report by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies released earlier this week that stated while Iraq does not currently have nuclear weapons, it could quickly develop them given the proper fissile material.
The president said, "Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes which officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium."
Listing a variety of Iraq's human rights violations, Bush cited the 1993 attempted assassination of the president's father, then-just-retired President George H.W. Bush.
Despite the long list of accusations, the president is expected to have a tough time convincing the General Assembly that it must act urgently. Many member nations are likely to demand tangible proof of Saddam's current ties to terrorism and recent attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction, leaving Bush in a Catch-22, since weapons inspectors have not been allowed into the country and would likely be misdirected if they were allowed in.
Only Britain has expressed affinity with the administration's goals. Any of the five permanent members can veto a resolution.