WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is mulling its next move in the showdown with Saddam Hussein, including a possible attempt to push a new United Nations resolution authorizing force against Iraq.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday it was becoming more obvious that the Iraqi president would not disarm voluntarily, and that the U.N. Security Council was letting him get away with it.
"The Security Council has to be an instrument of peace, but it has to be an instrument of peace that has teeth, or it is never going to be able to deal with the myriad difficult actors out there in international politics who intend to disturb that peace," Rice said.
The White House had a long holiday weekend to weigh options after being rebuffed Friday as most members of the Security Council lined up behind France's call for more weapons inspections and against military action.
Rice said on Fox News Sunday that the administration may ask the council to take up a new resolution authorizing force against Iraq, although she said that wouldn't be necessary to take action to forcibly disarm Saddam.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the same program that the plan being presented this week by America 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 said the wording of a new resolution was not finished and that the White House would oppose a new policy statement that amounts to a "delaying tactic."
France has led a formidable bloc calling for extended inspections and wants to wait on a resolution at least until mid-March. Inspectors report on March 1 to the Security Council.
Meanwhile, the chief U.N. nuclear inspector said Sunday that countries opposed to using force against Iraq could change their minds if Baghdad doesn't show more willingness to reveal evidence of weapons programs.
Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the U.N. search for banned weapons along with Hans Blix, told The Associated Press that the onus was on Iraq, not the U.N. inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction, to prove that it had nothing to hide.
In her appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Rice repeatedly said Saddam has weeks, not months, to disarm or face a military strike.
But former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark said on Meet The Press that the White House should consider allowing inspections to seek out weapons of mass destruction and not follow an "artificial deadline."
"It's unlikely the inspectors will ever find the so-called smoking gun on this. But if it makes our allies more able to go to their publics and justify their support of our operation, then I think that's important," said Clark, who has been mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential contender.
Rice said a confrontation was inevitable with Saddam.
"Sooner or later, we believe sooner, the Security Council is going to have to say that he has not taken that final opportunity to comply, and the Security Council is going to have to act, or the United States will have to act with a coalition of the willing," Rice said on Fox.
She refused to speculate about the vote possibilities for another Iraq resolution.
Christopher Meyer, British ambassador to United States, said on ABC's This Week that a decision would be made in the next few days on "the tactics and timing of a second resolution — when to do it, what to put into it, even who's going to table it."