Bush: Saddam Will Use Human Shields

Saddam Hussein is putting military troops in civilian areas and planning to use his own people as human shields if Iraq is attacked by the United States and its allies, President Bush said Monday.

"Saddam Hussein regards the Iraqi people as human shields -- entirely expendable when their suffering serves his purposes," Bush said Monday at the National Religious Broadcasters' convention.

Earlier in the day, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One that intelligence information has shown that the Iraqi leader is "prepositioning his military among civilians."

"This is a brutal dictator with a long history of using civilians to further his own purposes," McClellan said.

Bush said Saddam's actions are in direct violation of the Geneva Convention and that the Iraqi dictator plans to "shield his military and blame coalition forces for civilian casualties that he has caused."

Stressing that "the people of Iraq are not our enemies," Bush said Saddam views his own people as "expendable," but the United States cares about what happens to the Iraqi people in a post-Saddam world.

"America views the Iraqi people as human beings who have suffered long enough under this tyrant," Bush said.

The president also issued another stern warning to Saddam, saying if he doesn't completely disarm, the United States will lead a coalition in forcing him to do so.

"We've offered Iraq the path of voluntary disarmament and inspections. The Iraqi regime is rejecting them," Bush said. "Saddam Hussein has broken every promise to disarm -- he has shown complete contempt for the international community.

"Saddam Hussein is a threat. He's a threat to the United States of America. He's a threat to some of our closest friends and allies. We don't accept this threats."

"It's his choice to make as to how he will be disarmed."

McClellan, asked about published reports that the U.S. and Britain might propose an ultimatum that would give Saddam 48 hours to leave Iraq, said: "There are a lot of diplomatic efforts going on right now."

Earlier Monday, France, Germany and Belgium moved to block NATO from revving up its war engines to prepare for possible Iraqi attacks against Turkey. Secretary of State Colin Powell said NATO has a legal obligation to assist Turkey when it asks for help.

The international alliance should make sure that Turkey "is not put at any risk," Powell said Monday. In brief remarks to reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, he said: "I hope that NATO will now realize that they have an obligation to assist a NATO member."

Powell cited Article 4 of NATO's mutual defense treaty, which provides for all members of the military alliance to consult when a member is threatened.

McClellan also voiced disappointment at the deadlock.

He said the United States will support the Turkish request under NATO's Article 4. He says the dispute with France, Germany and Belgium 'goes to the core of NATO and its purpose.'

Turkey has requested emergency consultations under the treaty, the first time a North Atlantic Treaty Organization nation has done that in the alliance's 53-year history.

The dispute deepens divisions in NATO over Iraq. Germany and France have mounted a campaign in the U.N. Security Council to deter the United States and Britain from using force to disarm Saddam.

Bush, who was to see close ally Howard later Monday, has said the United States would act without council approval to disarm Iraq if the council did not support the use of force.

Bush says the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks redefined America's approach to international affairs and increased the urgency of dealing with growing threats abroad.

Powell meanwhile warned that if Saddam did not begin cooperating fully and quickly with U.N. weapons inspectors, the White House will seek a U.N. resolution authorizing a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The president, at a policy conference of Republican members of Congress at a West Virginia resort Sunday, explained his reasoning for expanding the war on terrorism to Iraq.

"Prior to September the 11th, there was apparently no connection between a place like Iraq and terror," he said. There were concerns about terrorists in Iraq, but no fear about a threat to the American homeland ... We were confident that two oceans could protect us from harm."

But, Bush added, "the world changed on September the 11th."

"It used to be that we could pick or choose whether or not we would become involved," but the attack on the United States has changed that philosophy, the president said.

Bush spoke as chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said in Baghdad that he saw a beginning of Iraq's understanding that it must seriously observe demands for disarmament. U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei said he expected the Security Council to give the inspectors more time "as long as we are registering good progress."

Blix and ElBaradei are to make their next report to the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

Powell said a reported French-German proposal to increase the number of weapons inspectors in Iraq in hopes of averting U.S. military action is "a diversion, not a solution" to disarming Saddam.

"The issue is not more inspectors. The issue is compliance on the part of Saddam Hussein," he added.

The plan would call for the deployment of thousands of U.N. soldiers, reconnaissance flights and a tripling of the number of weapons inspectors, according to the German news magazine Der Spiegel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.