WASHINGTON – President Bush's national security adviser scolded the United Nations on Sunday morning talk news shows for failing to stand up to Saddam Hussein.
Condoleezza Rice said the urgency to disarm the Iraqi president had not diminished despite mounting opposition in the U.N. Security Council to a military strike.
"I'm fearful that if we let this go on for terribly much longer … that indeed we will play into Saddam Hussein's hands -- or at least the Security Council will," she said on Fox News Sunday.
"He's played this game before," she said, referring to Hussein. "He will continue to try to deceive, and he will continue to try to split the council."
She said the administration was weighing another U.N. resolution but had not finalized any wording, and repeated that Saddam has "weeks, not months" to disarm.
The administration was evaluating all options after a showdown Friday at the U.N., where Secretary of State Colin Powell faced opposition from several nations demanding more time for U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was loudly applauded Friday by delegates and visitors at the Security Council after an impassioned speech urging that war be considered only as "a last resort."
Powell's remarks to the same group last Friday were met by silence.
Last week, the United States and Britain had hoped to push through a resolution quickly. But after Friday's meeting, it appeared highly unlikely the administration could count on the nine of 15 Security Council votes needed to authorize war.
The United States and Britain say they are willing to go to war without U.N. backing but would prefer to have it.
During a Sunday morning talk show circuit, Rice continued to sound tough and firm on the Bush administration's policy of military force as the only effective means to disarm Iraq.
"What we need now though is for the world to unify and to stop talking about whether we should go to war, whether we shouldn't go to war, and to say to Saddam Hussein: 'It is time. If you're ever going to comply, this is the time.'"
She reiterated the belief that Hussein's regime had much to answer for.
"When it comes to answering the tough questions about VX or anthrax, or those mobile biological laboratories that now many people have told us exist, the Iraqis have failed to do that," Rice said on Fox. "So they're not cooperating. They're deceiving."
On NBC's Meet the Press, Rice voiced similar themes, lambasting efforts by the council to delay military action.
"Continuing to talk about more time and more time and more time is simply going to relieve pressures on the Iraqis to do what they must do," Rice said on NBC. "It is time for this to end, enough is enough. Putting this off is not an option."
Rice said on Fox News Sunday that the administration may ask the U.N. to take up a new resolution authorizing force against Iraq, although she said action was already sanctioned by a previous resolution.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the same program that the resolution being presented this week by the United States and Britain would likely call for "definitive progress" in the disarmament of Iraq.
"If that's rejected, then I think the United States of America is going to have to make some difficult decisions," McCain said.
Rice, however, said: "We have not drafted the resolution. We're working it with different parties, with our friends."
The administration would support a new resolution authorizing force against Iraq, she said, but does not believe one is necessary. She wouldn't predict how close the vote would be.
"If our friends and allies believe that it would be useful to have a Security Council resolution that affirms the Security Council's willingness to act under 1441, then we're open to that," Rice said on Fox. But she added, "it's not what we need … The Security Council has got to make clear that its resolutions are not going to be serially abused in the way that Iraq has done for the last 12 years."
Rice also said the administration wasn't interested in retribution against nations that have opposed its position, including France.
"We don't need to allow this to become a street fight between the United States and France, the United States and Germany," she said on NBC.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.