WASHINGTON – President Bush on Wednesday called for more of a get-tough policy from the global community against regimes and terrorist networks trying to get their hands on nuclear and other deadly weapons.
On Sept. 11, 2001, America faced a new danger, Bush said. "Killers armed with box cutters, mace and 19 airline tickets … those attacks also raised the prospect of even worse dangers."
"The greatest threat before humanity today is the possibility of secret or sudden attacks with chemical, or radiological or biological or nuclear weapons," Bush continued.
Bush's speech was already taking heat from some Democrats.
Sen. John Kerry, the front-runner in the Democratic race to clinch the nomination to run against Bush in the November election, said he hopes the president's speech isn't "yet another rhetorical performance for the 'say one thing, do another administration.'"
"It's good to hear that the president has finally acknowledged how critical cooperation with other countries is in solving the critical national security challenge of weapons proliferation," the Massachusetts senator said in a statement. "But cooperation is not just a few lines in a speech, it is crucial to safeguarding our national security."
Arguing that international efforts to combat nuclear proliferation haven't yet been effective enough, Bush unveiled his new push to put more teeth in the international community's moves to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction in a speech at the National Defense University (search).
"Armed with single vial of a biological agent or a single nuclear weapon ... [terrorists] could gain the power to threaten great nations, threaten the world peace," Bush said.
"America and the entire civilized world will face this threat for decades to come. We must confront the danger with open eyes and unbending purpose. I made clear to all the policy of this nation: America will not permit terrorists and dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most deadly weapons."
Bush said the Sept. 11 terror attacks and other events are proof that new tools and new strategies must be used in a post-Cold War era.
"What has changed in the 21st century is in the hands of terrorists, weapons of mass destruction would be a first resort — the preferred way to further their ideology of suicide and random murder," Bush said. "These terrible weapons are being easier to acquire, build, hide and transport."
With the president still enduring heavy criticism over whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (search), he outlined the role that good U.S. intelligence has played in recent nonproliferation successes in places such as Libya and Pakistan.
Bush, who has been counting on strong national security and anti-terrorism credentials to boost his re-election bid, last week reversed course and established an independent commission to examine prewar intelligence lapses.
"We're determine to stop these threats at their source," he said.
'Determined to Protect Our People'
Bush said the father of Pakistan's nuclear program sold nuclear technology to countries such as Libya, Iran and North Korea as an example of the global nature of the problem.
Abdul Qadeer Khan (search) confessed last week to transferring nuclear secrets.
U.S. intelligence helped prod Musharraf into acting against Khan and revealed other details of the black market network in which Khan was involved. Bush signaled U.S. expectations that Pakistan finish the job of completely dismantling the network.
The U.S. intelligence community also was praised for helping bring about Libya's agreement in December with the United States and Britain to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction and missile programs.
"We expect other regimes to follow his example," Bush said, referring to Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi (search), promising that countries that do, will enjoy "better relations with the United States" but those who don't will endure "political isolation, economic hardship and other unwelcome consequences."
"These regimes and other proliferators like Kahn should know, we and our friends are determined to protect our people and the world from proliferation," Bush said.
Bush specifically focused on what he has dubbed the "axis of evil" — Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
"The key here is not just to deal with rogue states but to deal with these shadowy networks ... to make sure we know the full story, to make sure we root out all the tentacles," Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said Wednesday before the speech.
The Seven Steps to Combating WMD
Bush laid out seven steps he wants taken to combat proliferation.
1. The global Proliferation Security Initiative (search) should be boosted. More efforts should be made to interdict lethal materials, share intelligence information with other countries, track suspicious cargo and conduct military exercises to stop weapons in their tracks.
"Our message to proliferators must be consistent and it must be clear. "We will find you and we're not going to rest until you're stopped,'" Bush said.
2. Nations should strengthen laws and international controls that govern proliferation.
Bush proposed a U.N. Security Council (search) resolution last year requiring all states to criminalize proliferation, enact strict export controls and secure sensitive materials. He called on the council to quickly pass that resolution, saying, "when they do, America stands ready" to help governments draft and enforce the new laws.
3. Countries should expand efforts to keep nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union and other dangerous weapons "out of the wrong hands."
4. Nuclear fuel exporters should ensure that states aren't using the fuel for nuclear enrichment and reprocessing purposes but are really using it for civilian power facilities. That move is likely to draw ire from nations like North Korea and Iran, which have, in the past, claimed they were using nuclear material for electricity purposes.
5. By next year, only states that have signed additional non-proliferation protocols would be able to import nuclear equipment for civilian programs. Bush asked for the U.S. Senate to immediately ratify the protocol proposal, which he sent to Capitol Hill.
6. The muscle of the U.N.'s Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (search), which is in charge of making sure countries comply with international nuclear disarmament, should be strengthened.
7. Countries under investigation for violating nonproliferation agreements that are on the IAEA's board of governors be suspended from the panel. Bush pointed to Iran, which is currently being eyed for its nuclear activity, which recently completed a two-year term on the board.
"Allowing potential violators to serve on the board creates an unacceptable barrier to effective action," Bush said sternly. "No state under investigation for proliferation violations should be allowed to serve on the IAEA board of governors, or on the new special committee.
"The integrity and mission of the IAEA depends on this simple principal — those actively breaking the rules should not be entrusted with enforcing the rules."
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., said the president's intentions seemed long on rhetoric and short on action.
"He has consistently under funded and even cut the nonproliferation programs that would make the United States safer," Tauscher said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.