WASHINGTON – President Bush praised British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday for a speech and 50-page document outlining Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's history of weapons of mass destruction program, its breach of U.N. resolutions and the current attempt to rebuild the program.
"Prime Minister Blair, first of all, is a very strong leader, and I admire his willingness to tell the truth and to lead. Secondly he continues to make the case, like we make the case, that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace," Bush told reporters in a question-and-answer session following a West Wing Cabinet meeting.
Bush also said that the United Nations must recognize the threat posed by Saddam as outlined by the United States and the United Kingdom.
"I again call on the United Nations to pass a strong resolution holding this man to account and if they are unable to do so, the United States and our friends will act because we believe in peace. We want to keep the peace and we don't trust this man and that's what the Blair report showed today," Bush said.
The dossier provided a highly detailed history of Iraq's weapons program, but there appeared to be little new information in the report.
Bush said he understood that Blair didn't get specific because "he is not going to reveal sources and methods of collection of sensitive information. Those sources and methods will be used later on, I am confident. We need to gather more information about how this man has deceived the world."
Blair's dossier said Iraq has military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons and has tried to acquire "significant quantities" of uranium from Africa. It also stated that Iraq plans to use chemical and biological weapons, including against its own Sh'ia population and said that some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them.
"The 45-minute window under which Iraq is prepared to use biological and chemical weapons is one further sign of worries we have about Iraq and their militaristic intentions," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Tuesday.
Fleischer disregarded suggestions that Blair and Bush on different tracks with the former worried about disarmament and the latter focusing on regime change.
"I don't think there's any difference between us," Fleischer said.
Several Democrats have expressed misgivings about giving the president too much authority in the resolution designed to eliminate the threats posed by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Many are bothered by the idea of unilateral action if the United Nations fails to produce new resolutions requiring Iraq to abandon weapons of mass destruction and give the United States power to "restore international peace and security in the region."
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the second-ranking Democrat in the House, said she still wants some evidence that Saddam is the threat President Bush says he is.
"What is the justification for our going in? What is the mission? How do we intend on accomplishing it, and therefore why does the president need a resolution of that broad scope when the intelligence does not support the threat that is being described?" Pelosi, a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, asked Monday.
But Bush said Tuesday he has no fear that Democrats will get behind a significantly authoritative resolution aimed at resolving these issues.
"There are a lot of Democrats in Washington, D.C. who understand that Saddam is a true threat and that we must hold him to account and I believe you will see as we work to get a strong resolution out of Congress that a lot of Democrats are willing to take the lead when it comes to keeping the peace," Bush said.