WASHINGTON – President Bush turned the charm on congressional leaders Wednesday morning, inviting them to breakfast at the White House to discuss legislation empowering him to use "all appropriate means" against Baghdad.
Saddam Hussein is "not going to fool anybody" with his promise to re-admit weapons inspectors, Bush told reporters after the breakfast meeting. He thanked lawmakers of both parties for agreeing to vote on a congressional resolution on Iraq before the November midterm elections.
"I think it's an important signal for the world to see that this country is united in its resolve," the president said.
"We've got to be together in the United States supporting the diplomatic and military, if necessary, to solve this problem," House Speaker Dick Gephardt said after he and other congressional leaders met with Bush at the White House.
Iraq's sudden announcement Monday that it would let inspectors back in after nearly four years appeared to be splitting the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, with both French and Russian officials saying Tuesday that Baghdad's apparent concessions had removed the need for an official resolution.
"All they've got to do is look at [Saddam's] record," Bush countered. "His latest ploy, his latest attempt not to be held accountable for defying the United Nations. He's not going to fool anybody."
"I'm convinced that when we continue to make the case about his defiance, his deception, the fact that time and time again -- dozens of times -- he has told the world, 'Oh, I will comply' and he never does, that nations who care about peace and care about the validity of the United Nations, will join us," Bush said.
It was the second straight day that Bush has prodded the U.N. to move against Saddam, reflecting concerns about by senior advisers that Iraq has gained the upper hand in the public-relations battle.
"Reasonable people understand this man is unreasonable," Bush said.
Democratic leaders sounded a note of bipartisanship as they emerged from the meeting.
Gephardt said that a sternly resolution was needed give Bush authority to deal with Saddam diplomatically and "military, if we must."
Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle, D-S.D., said, "I think this is an important moment for our country and for the international community to work together."
Daschle said Tuesday that he expected a vote on Iraq before the November elections, but added that it was "unfortunate" that Bush had injected election-year politics into the Iraq issue.
"I expressed the concern weeks ago that the closer we get to the election the more likely this whole grave matter could be politicized," Daschle said.
On Friday, Bush had mocked Democrats for wanting to wait until after the U.N. had acted.
"If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people, say, 'Vote for me, and oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I think I'm going to wait for somebody else to act,"' Bush said.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, told reporters that Iraq's agreement to admit weapons inspectors would only be meaningful if Saddam followed through.
"Saddam having stood up and given lip service, I think, invites us to wait and see," Armey said. "I think Ronald Reagan said, 'Trust, but verify' -- this is a great opportunity to practice that option."
On the military front, Pentagon officials said Tuesday that it had sought permission from Britain to base a small number of B-2 stealth bombers on the island of Diego Garcia in the northern Indian Ocean, instead of their current base in Missouri.
In the halls of diplomacy, Iraq's smooth moves appeared to be paying off, as Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov challenged the U.S. demand for a new Security Council resolution.
"We don't need any special resolution," Ivanov said, adding that there should be "no artificial delays" blocking the return of the inspectors.
Ivanov said the inspectors "should go to Iraq and get down to discharging their functions" of determining how many weapons Iraq possesses.
Russia's stand is crucial because of its role as a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council.
Bush will have a chance to make his case directly to the Russians on Friday when he meets with Ivanov and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.
Secretary of State Colin Powell argued forcefully for a new U.N. resolution, saying it's the only way to avoid repeating Iraq's past pattern of flouting Security Council mandates.
Powell said Iraq agreed to allow the inspectors' return only because the "entire international community" united in opposition to Iraq after Bush's speech to the General Assembly last Thursday.
The U.N. body that would travel to Iraq is the United Nations Monitoring, Inspection and Verification Commission, led by Hans Blix, a veteran arms expert. Blix met Tuesday evening with Iraqi officials, who said the two sides agreed to meet again in Vienna in 10 days to finish arrangements for the inspectors' return.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said the inspection team "is ready to move as quickly as is practicable" to begin work in Iraq. He also said the Security Council is at the beginning of the process, not the end, suggesting sympathy for Powell's view.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.