WASHINGTON – Lawmakers are close to giving President Bush the congressional authorization he wants to take on Saddam Hussein, saying they will limit the mandate to Iraq to satisfy Democrats' unease about Bush's request to restore security to the whole region.
On Sunday's television talk shows, Democrats also said Bush needs to more aggressively explain his plans in order to win domestic and international support for any action.
The administration has proposed a resolution that would authorize the president ``to use all means that he determines to be appropriate, including force, in order to ... defend the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq, and restore international peace and security in the region.''
``It's much too broad; there's no limit at all on presidential powers,'' said Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
``There needs to be some changes ... it's not even limited to Iraq,'' Levin, D-Mich., said on Fox News Sunday.
Bush wants the U.N. Security Council to enforce bans on weapons of mass destruction against Iraq. The United States believes Iraq is stockpiling deadly chemical and biological weapons, and is rebuilding its nuclear weapons program.
Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said keeping ``region'' in the resolution would set too broad a precedent.
The administration is amenable to change, and ``I predict that won't be the language,'' Biden, D-Del., said.
Some Republicans sympathized with the need to contain the language. ``These are very, very important definitions, because it will guide the president and this nation probably into war,'' Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said on ABC's This Week.
Even those comfortable with the proposed language said they would accommodate change to speed it through. The White House wants the legislation to pass before Congress recesses before elections Nov. 5.
``We can correct that, I don't think that's fatal to the heart of the resolution,'' said Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the House International Relations Committee.
Hagel and Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz. predicted the resolution would easily pass before the November elections, but Biden said Bush needed to work harder to explain his plans.
``The American people are grown up,'' he said. ``You tell them what we need to do, tell them the threat, and they will back the president. But we haven't told them all of the story yet.''
Biden and Levin also urged Bush to work closely with the U.N. Security Council, saying it would bolster domestic backing for any war.
``There is a degree of confidence that increases in direct proportion to the notion that we are not going to be going alone with this,'' Biden said.
Levin said Saddam was more likely to fold before joint action than if he were threatened by the United States alone. ``I want him to look down the barrel of a gun with the world behind it.''
Whatever the stakes, lawmakers urged Israel to avoid retaliating against any Iraqi provocation.
``The Israelis going into it could just be a widespread war in the Middle East,'' Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said on CBS' Face the Nation.
Biden agreed. ``You would find probably every embassy in the Middle East burned to the ground before it went too far,'' he said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Israel would heed U.S. appeals for restraint but reserved the right to respond if it were attacked.
``We understand there is not going to be two wars and there are not going to be two supreme commands,'' Peres. ``It will be, should be coordinated ... and also, we insist on our rights.''