Skip to comments.Bush Calls For NATO Support On Disarming Iraq
Posted on 11/20/2002 5:31:56 AM PST by blam
Bush Calls for NATO Support on Disarming Iraq
By Randall Mikkelsen
PRAGUE (Reuters) - President Bush said on Wednesday he would call on NATO allies to help him disarm Saddam Hussein should the Iraqi leader refuse to give up the deadly arsenal Washington believes he has concealed.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Czech President Vaclav Havel, Bush said NATO members would consider the consequences for Iraq of any failure to comply with a new U.N. disarmament resolution at a summit in Prague on Thursday.
"If the decision is made to use military force we will consult with our friends and we hope that our friends will join us," Bush said.
Mindful of anxieties among European allies over U.S. policy on Iraq, Bush said he hoped Iraq would cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors, who this week returned to Baghdad after a four-year absence, and that the country would disarm voluntarily.
War would be the last option, Bush said. "I hope we can do this peacefully."
NATO's two-day summit is dedicated formally to inviting seven Eastern European states to join the 19-member alliance in 2004.
But discussions will be dominated by Iraq and how NATO can remold itself to face new security threats after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Bush is to lay out his vision of NATO's future in a speech to a transatlantic student group later on Wednesday.
"NATO must transition from an organization that was formed to meet the threats from a Warsaw Pact, to a military organization structured to meet the threats from global terrorists," Bush told the news conference.
He said he would look to the new members, with memories of Cold War Soviet dominance, to invigorate NATO. "The admission of these countries will affect the soul of this most important alliance," Bush said.
The United States is pushing for a strong statement on Iraq from the summit, but European diplomats say the language in the alliance's final communiqué is likely to be limited to backing the U.N. resolution that sent inspectors back to Baghdad.
The U.N. resolution warns of "serious consequences" if Iraq fails to comply.
"There is clear understanding that he (Saddam) must disarm," Bush said. "Tomorrow we will discuss the issue. We'll consider what happens if he chooses not to disarm. But one thing is certain -- he'll be disarmed one way or the other."
Bush repeated that he would assemble a "coalition of the willing" to assist in any U.S. drive to oust Saddam, playing down suggestions that Washington would act unilaterally.
"All nations will be able to choose whether or not they want to participate," he said.
Havel said NATO should consider joining any Iraq campaign at the alliance level, but that would be opposed by countries like Germany, whose Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has been an outspoken opponent of any Iraq war.
Britain said on Wednesday the United States had asked it to contribute troops to a possible Iraq campaign but stressed that did not mean war was inevitable.
When asked if Washington regarded Iraqi firing on Western warplanes over Iraq as a breach of the U.N. disarmament resolution, Bush said the United States was seeking a broad answer to whether Saddam was cooperating.
"The final point of determination is whether or not he is disarmed," Bush said. "What we are going to be looking for, and I hope the world joins us, is whether or not this man is cooperating with the will of the world."
A senior Bush aide said Washington continued to view Iraq's firing on warplanes patrolling no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq as a "material breach" of the U.N. resolution, a view most allies, including Britain, have disagreed with.
For now, Washington viewed retaliatory strikes on Iraqi defenses as the appropriate response, the aide said.
Bush was to meet NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer of Turkey, whose backing for a campaign against Iraq would be crucial, later on Wednesday.
Ex-Soviet states Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, plus Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia are to be offered membership in the U.S.-led alliance's biggest expansion beyond the old Iron Curtain, despite earlier Russian concerns.
The summit is likely to attract some 12,000 anti-NATO activists and anarchists set to square off with as many police, as U.S. fighter planes patrol the skies over the Czech capital.
Bush's afternoon speech was moved from an auditorium at Radio Free Europe to a Prague hotel in response to a potential terrorism threat, officials said.
How would President Bush handle it differently than Carter did?
The inspectors are not American Embassy personnel. Are they expendable? Could it be Bush's "Achille's Heel"?
God Bless George Bush!
This is 'coalition building.' We don't need anything from NATO to remove Saddam.