PRAGUE, Czech Republic – "The Soviet Union is gone, but freedom still has enemies," President Bush said Wednesday, urging a gathering of NATO allies to stand as one against international terrorists and the threat from Iraq.
"Every nation is a potential target," Bush said in a speech before a group of students in Prague, referring to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons he said "can be spread by missile or by terrorist cell."
The president's speech was tailored to central European listeners who once lived in the Soviet-dominated Iron Curtain and whose families recall the menace of Adolf Hitler a generation earlier.
Bush invoked the United States' involvement in World War II as he exhorted allies Wednesday to join him.
The president warned that NATO countries face threats from terrorism in the 21st century that are as dangerous as those posed by German armies 60 years ago, and implored member nations to join him in standing up against Saddam Hussein.
"Great evil is stirring in the world," Bush said. "We've faced perils we've never thought about, perils we've never seen before, but they're dangerous, they're just as dangerous as those perils that your fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers faced."
"U-boats could not divide us," Bush told the students, who sat silent through his speech. "The commitment of my nation to Europe is found in the carefully tended graves of young Americans who died for this continent's freedom."
"Today, more than 90 nations are joined by global coalition to fight terror," Bush said. "Today, the world is also uniting to answer the unique and urgent threat posed by Iraq.
"A dictator who has used weapons of mass destruction on his own people must not be allowed to use or possess those weapons. We will not permit Saddam Hussein to blackmail and/or terrorize nations which love freedom."
"Voluntarily, or by force, that goal will be achieved," Bush said.
'Coalition of the Willing'
Earlier Wednesday, Bush told reporters that he is using the gathering of the NATO allies to recruit armies for a "coalition of the willing" against Iraq.
He said that the more members who join a coalition to disarm Iraq, the more likely it is that Saddam will back down from a confrontation and disarm voluntarily.
"If the collective will of the world is strong, we can achieve disarmament peacefully," Bush said in a news conference with Czech President Vaclav Havel.
But, the president added, if Saddam refuses to abandon his weapons programs, "the United States will lead a coalition of the willing to disarm him."
At a meeting Wednesday morning with Havel, whose country was one of the first three Soviet Bloc nations invited to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Bush said the coalition can benefit from specialized abilities even small states have.
For example, the president suggested the Czechs could be particularly important if it comes to war with Iraq.
"In order for there to be an effective NATO, some countries can specialize and provide excellence. And the classic example is the Czech Republic's ability to deal with biological weapons -- the aftermath of a biological weapon attack. The Czech Republic is one of the very best in the world at a chemical and biological response capability," he said.
The president is looking at ways to get each member to sign on individually to a coalition since diplomats organizing the summit have said that NATO will not work collectively against Iraq.
Bush was meeting one-on-one with leaders from the Czech Republic, Turkey, France and Great Britain to seek individual pledges of support if war comes. A senior administration official said the meetings are simply a chance to formalize previous offers of support made to Washington in recent months.
Officials added that U.S. ambassadors in 52 countries have been told to solicit support from allies for personnel and equipment to assist American forces in the war on terrorism and, possibly, on Iraq.
A U.S. official said that many liaisons at Central Command in Tampa, Fla., were offering various forms of support for the war against terrorism and for any possible action against Iraq.
Another official added that the United States is not just talking to these nations about military assistance, but also about political, diplomatic and economic assistance.
As for the Czech Republic, Havel said his people prefer that Saddam peacefully surrender his weapons of mass destruction.
"If, however, the need to use force were to arise, I believe NATO should give honest and speedy consideration to its engagement as an alliance," he said.
He emphasized his desire to see a collective NATO expression of support, whether military or political, and said he hopes NATO will address the Iraq crisis in a formal statement.
If there is military action to be taken in Iraq, count on the Czech Republic to be "a partner of the United States," Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda told reporters after a separate meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Despite all the one-on-ones, the president was not scheduled to meet privately with German President Gerhard Schroeder, with whom he has had an icy relationship since Germany's presidential elections. Schroeder campaigned on an anti-U.S. theme that specifically criticized Bush's Iraq policy.
Of Germany's decision to refuse cooperation with military action against Iraq, Bush said: "It's a decision Germany will make just like it's a decision the Czech Republic will make, just like it's a decision Great Britain will make. It's a decision that each country must decide as to how, if and when they want to participate, and how they choose to participate."
The alliance was expected to negotiate a collective statement echoing the United Nations' demand that Iraq allow weapons inspectors to move freely through the nation. Again, Germany said that the statement should not threaten more than the U.N. Security Council resolution which suggests "serious consequences" if Saddam doesn't cooperate. White House officials say they are fine with a message that parallels the U.N. resolution.
The main purpose of the summit is to invite seven former Soviet bloc nations to join NATO and to refocus the alliance to face new threats like global terrorism and rogue nations like Iraq.
"The enemy is not Russia. The enemy is global terrorists who hate freedom, and together we can work to defeat that enemy in the name of freedom," Bush said.
The seven new countries expected to receive invitations are the Baltic states: Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which former Russian President Boris Yeltsin once said should never be allowed in NATO, because of their strategic threat to Russia. Slovenia and the Slovak Republic, the other half of the former Czechoslovakia, are also being asked to join as are Bulgaria and Romania, which took on added significance after the Sept. 11 attacks because of their proximity to the Arab world.
Aside from the potential for terrorist acts -- American F-16s are guarding Czech airspace above the summit -- the meeting has also attracted the usual anti-globalization crowd. More than 10,000 protesters were expected to face at least that many police officers, who are determined to make sure this city isn't vandalized like the sites of other international gatherings over the past few years.
Fox News' Jim Angle and Wendell Goler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.