WASHINGTON – As Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asked the Senate not to delay a vote on an Iraq resolution until after Election Day, Secretary of State Colin Powell told a House panel on Thursday that Iraq is abusing the United Nations' good will and integrity.
"The indictment that the president laid out didn't need much discussion or debate. Everybody sitting in that chamber last Thursday knew that Iraq stood guilty of the charges," Powell told the House International Relations Committee, referring to last week's appearance by President Bush to lay out the case against Iraq before the U.N. General Assembly.
"It convicted itself by its action over the last 12 years. There can be no question that Iraq is in material breech of its obligations," he said.
Powell warned that Iraq must face hard consequences if it does not comply with U.N. resolutions on disarmament, and said it's improbable that countries would get "giddy" about Iraq's seeming willingness to allow the return of weapons inspectors.
On the other side of the Capitol, Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Congress must act to pass a resolution allowing the use of force if needed because Iraq can't be trusted.
"If we want to measure the depth of their so-called change of heart I suggest we watch what they do, not what they say. On Monday, [Iraq] sent a letter indicating that they were ready to begin cooperating with the U.N. Within hours, they began firing and trying to shoot down coalition aircraft ... . The air inspections, the operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch have been continuing with coalition pilots flying at risk of their lives and since delivering the letter promising unconditional access they have fired at coalition aircraft somewhere between 15 and 20 times, which is a considerable increase from the preceding period before the letter," he said.
It was the defense secretary's second day in a row testifying alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers -- this time answering questions from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
As the administration officials spoke to lawmakers, congressmen reviewed proposed wording sent by President Bush for a resolution that would give him broad war-making authority regardless of whether the United Nations acts. The letter asks that he be given "all means he determines to be appropriate, including the use of force" to disarm Saddam.
Rumsfeld told Congress that lawmakers should support the president's request.
"It was Congress that changed the objective of U.S. policy of containment to regime change by passage of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 by, as I recall, something like a 10-1 margin in both houses," he said. "The president is now asking Congress to support that policy. A decision to use military force potentially is never easy. And it’s important that the issues surrounding this decision be discussed and debated seriously."
Earlier in the day, Bush explained the need for a congressional resolution.
"If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force," Bush told reporters.
And, he added that a tough congressional resolution, strongly supported, might prompt the United Nations to act.
"The Security Council must be firm in resolve to deal with the true threat to world peace and that is the man, Saddam Hussein," Bush said.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told the United Nations Thursday that his country has no weapons of mass destruction and said the United States has fabricated the Iraqi threat to justify an attack and take the country's oil.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer called the speech a disappointing failure, an attempt to lure the world down the same dead end road it has traveled before.
Back at the White House, support for the president appeared to be growing. Nine Democratic and Republican lawmakers emerged from a morning audience with Bush predicting bipartisan support for the commander-in-chief.
"I think we have no choice but to have the strongest support possible for the president's efforts here," said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.
But the president also stressed he is not on the verge of declaring war, said Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y.
"The most important word I heard inside today from the president was the word 'if.' He made it repeatedly clear that this resolution is not intended as a declaration of war, it is not intended as an immediate prior step to aggression," said McHugh.
At the House International Relations Committee, Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said that he is sure Congress will overwhelmingly pass the resolution.
However, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., was not so enthusiastic. He said he appreciated the president's draft language of a resolution, but now must review it with his colleagues.
Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Ky., told Fox News that he would like Bush to come to Capitol Hill to address a joint session of Congress to explain why it should support his resolution.
He wrote a letter to the president listing questions that the president must answer, including estimated costs of a campaign, estimated length of a military commitment and evidence that Saddam is a threat.
"We have seen the effort in Afghanistan ... what are the costs and are we prepared to do that in Iraq?" Ford said. "The president coming before the body ... can settle doubts about why we should do this and why now is the time."
Earlier in the day, the top U.N. nuclear weapons inspector for Iraq said his team is anxious to go back.
Jacques Baute, head of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency action team on Iraq, said he has photographs, soil and water samples, and video footage dating back to 1998 which have all been carefully analyzed. They have been used in part to develop a plan to prevent Saddam from developing more weapons.
Meanwhile, former Iraqi nuclear scientist Khidir Hamza, who defected to the United States six years ago, confirmed to a House committee Thursday that Iraq is serious about its nuclear program because it wants to become a nuclear power in the region.
"The Iraqi nuclear weapons program is a very serious one. It is built around turning Iraq into a nuclear power in the region," Hamza told the House Armed Service Committee. "What we are looking at is really a giant factory, a whole country turned into a giant factory for weapons of mass destruction."
Fox News' Steve Centanni and Wendell Goler contributed to this report.