WASHINGTON – President Bush quickly went to the microphones Friday to warn Saddam Hussein that the United States will go to war with Iraq if the nation does not disarm.
"The outcome of the current crisis is already determined. The full disarmament of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq will occur. The only question for the Iraqi regime is to decide how. The United States prefers that Iraq meet its obligations voluntarily but we are prepared for the alternative. In either case, the just demands of the world will be met," Bush said, flanked by Secretary of State Colin Powell in the White House Rose Garden.
A few minutes before the president's speech, a U.N. Security Council resolution backed by the U.S. and Britain passed unanimously.
After eight weeks of negotiations, and several compromises on language requiring Saddam to disarm, all 15 members of the Security Council, including permanent, veto-holding members Russia, France and China, approved the latest resolution. Shortly after passage of the resolution, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said that inspectors would return to Iraq on Nov. 18.
Bush said that Iraq's 12 years of defiance in the face of international demands that he cease building weapons of mass destruction now come down to a final do-or-die situation.
"The world has now come together to say that the outlaw regime in Iraq will not be permitted to build or possess chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. That is the judgment of the United States Congress. That is the judgment of the United Nations Security Council. Now that world must insist that that judgment be enforced," Bush said.
He added that as president, he will not permit Saddam to pose a threat to Americans and linked Saddam once more to the war against terrorism.
"We are actively pursuing dangerous terror networks across the world. And we oppose a uniquely dangerous regime; a regime that has harbored terrorists and could supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction; a regime that has built such terrible weapons and has used them to kill thousands; a brutal regime with a history of both reckless ambition and reckless miscalculation," he said.
"The United States of America will not live at the mercy of any group or regime that has the motive and seeks the power to murder Americans on a massive scale."
The president had already gotten the support of a majority of Congress before Friday's U.N. vote. Before leaving to campaign for the midterm elections, 77 senators and 296 representatives had sent a resolution of support to the White House. That measure gave the president permission to use force to get Saddam to disarm if necessary.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Friday he was pleased that the United Nations also approved a strong resolution.
"I think that's a positive thing. The president seemed to be upbeat about it. There is a movement that they are pretty tough on Saddam Hussein and on the inspections and they all leave the president free to act if that result isn't satisfactory," said Hastert, R-Ill.
"Today's vote is welcome news because it acknowledges an international consensus on two inescapable conclusions," House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said in a later statement. "First, peace cannot be secured by evading the responsibility to confront and disarm evil dictators and tyrannical regimes. And, to remain relevant, the United Nations is obligated to summon the courage to enforce its own standing resolutions.
The Iraqis, who responded to the U.N. vote Friday by saying they still have to study the resolution, have seven days to accept its terms, 30 days to declare its weapons of mass destruction and 45 days to allow weapons inspectors to return, according to the resolution's provisions. Inspectors will have 60 days from then to report their findings.
The United States did compromise on language that would have automatically led to force had Saddam not complied.
"This resolution contains no hidden triggers and no automaticity with respect to the use of force. If there is a further Iraqi breach reported to the council by (United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission), the (International Atomic Energy Agency) or a member-state, the matter will return to the council for discussions as required in paragraph 12. The resolution makes clear that any Iraqi failure to comply is unacceptable and that Iraq must be disarmed," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte.
However, Negroponte pointed out that "if the Security Council fails to act decisively in the event of further Iraqi violations, this resolution does not constrain any member-state from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq, or to enforce relevant United Nations resolutions and protect world peace and security."
Democratic Rep. Robert Matsui of California, who voted against the Iraq resolution, told Fox News on Friday that Bush, Powell and Negroponte did a "masterful job" in negotiating a unanimous agreement among members of the Security Council.
"Particularly with the French, the Russians and the Chinese, they were very resistant. Of course, getting Syria to support this, normally Syria would abstain, but getting them to support this was tremendous. And I think this is what all Americans support and I think the ball is now in the court of Saddam Hussein," Matsui said.
Matsui added that he is pleased that the president sought a multilateral approach that secures the backing of all Americans and the Security Council for any use of force that may be necessary.
"I think what the president now is saying, is he is not talking necessarily about regime change, he's talking about disarmament of all biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. So I think there is a different approach to this now and certainly Saddam Hussein has the pressure on him and we are all watching him. The world is watching him now," he said.
Added Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the House International Relations Committee: "The burden is on Saddam to show with absolute clarity that he is making a break with his past and is complying with the terms of this and other U.N. Security Council resolutions"