WASHINGTON – President Bush said Tuesday that countries trying to extend weapons inspections in Iraq are attempting to give Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "another, another, another last chance."
Bush, who took questions from reporters after swearing in William Donaldson as the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said he would not be deterred by protests nor by reaction to Friday's report on U.N. weapons inspections, which appeared a hardening of the positions by those opposed to military action in Iraq.
"Some in the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace. I respectfully disagree," Bush said.
"Democracy is a beautiful thing, and that people are allowed to express their opinion" but "it's like deciding, 'Well I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group.' The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security, in this case security of the people," the president added.
Bush said war is his last choice, but "the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option as far as I'm concerned."
The president's comments were his first public remarks since weapons inspectors delivered their report to the U.N. Security Council on Friday, and followed protests across Europe this weekend. Millions in capitals from London to Rome voiced their opposition to war in Iraq.
The White House said earlier on Tuesday that Europeans' fears are as unfounded as they were in the early 1980s when they protested the deployment of intermediate-ranged nuclear missiles.
Press secretary Ari Fleischer characterized that as an element of the victory over communism, though the missiles were removed before the Iron Curtain fell.
"Often the message of protesters is contradicted by history," Fleischer said.
Meanwhile, officials are pressing the U.N. Security Council for a second resolution authorizing war with Iraq, and they'd like to see it passed in a matter of days. White House officials said a new resolution should be short and make clear Iraq has lost its last chance to peacefully disarm, though the president said resolutions don't mean much to Saddam.
In Rome, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Iraq had to "move very fast" to heed the call of the international community and cooperate with U.N. inspectors or face possible war. But he said it was up to the Security Council to decide if the inspections had gone on long enough.
France, with support from Russia and China, does not accept the U.S. view that the Security Council effectively endorsed force as an option to disarm Iraq in an earlier resolution that warned of "serious consequences" if Saddam persisted in defying U.N. demands.
With some 50 countries lined up to speak to the council in a session that could go over until Wednesday, early action by the United States and its close ally, Britain, was not expected.
"We're working with our friends. As I said a second resolution would be useful. We don't need a second resolution. It's clear this guy could care even less about the first resolution. He's in total defiance of [Resolution] 1441, but we want to work with our friends and allies and see if we can get a second resolution, that's what we're doing right now," Bush said.
Bush added he was seeking the second resolution in part to prove that the international body has not lost its purpose.
"I think it's very important for the United Nations to be useful as we go out into the future. And there's nothing less useful than issuing a resolution and then not upholding the resolution," he said.
On Tuesday, however, the Bush administration drew some support in Europe.
Thirteen incoming members of the European Union endorsed a joint declaration in Brussels, Belgium, which warned Saddam he had one last chance to disarm.
French President Jacques Chirac scoffed that the 13 had "missed a good opportunity to keep quiet."
In a parallel action backing the United States, 10 former communist countries, seven of them EU candidates, reiterated their support for Washington's position on Saddam.
Fleischer did not fault Chirac, saying he simply had another approach to the Iraqi threat and has always leveled with Bush privately and publicly.
Fleischer suggested the same could not be said of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, declining to say whether the German leader also told Bush the same thing in private as he said in public.
The president downplayed the continuing differences with Turkey, which wants a multibillion-dollar aid package in exchange for letting the United States launch attacks on Iraq from its soil. Turkey is situated on Iraq's northern border.
Bush said he hopes for a satisfactory agreement, saying Turkey "has no better friend than the American government." But aides are less diplomatic, declining to call the Turkish request blackmail but saying the Turks need to understand it's decision time.
Fox News' Wendell Goler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.