President to address nation as Iraq vows to..

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Posted by Tony from ( on Tuesday, October 08, 2002 at 0:04AM :

President to address nation as Iraq vows to teach attackers an 'unprecedented lesson'

Hilary Mackenzie
The Ottawa Citizen; with files from Citizen News Services

Monday, October 07, 2002

U.S. President George W. Bush prepared to address the nation tonight to explain why the U.S. should launch a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.

The move comes as congressional leaders yesterday predicted a strong bipartisan vote authorizing Mr. Bush to use all necessary force to oust Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

With that vote, due by week's end, Mr. Bush is likely to lobby the United Nations Security Council for a tough new resolution threatening force if Mr. Saddam defies its will.

Iraq, meanwhile, is dismissing U.S. threats of military action, warning they will teach attackers an "unprecedented" lesson.

"We are not warmongers. We do not want war and we do not wish it to happen," said Izzat Ibrahim, vice-chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council in Kirkuk, 255 kilometres north of the capital Baghdad.

"But if it is imposed on us, we will fight, God willing, a great fight in defence of principles and values."

But Iraq also hinted yesterday it might allow UN weapons inspectors greater freedom to search for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Mohammed Aldouri, Iraq's UN ambassador, suggested Baghdad is willing to give the inspectors unfettered access to Iraq's "presidential sites" -- sprawling compounds belonging to Mr. Saddam for which Iraq has previously demanded special status.

"I don't think that we will have a problem on that question," Mr. Aldouri said. "Certainly, we can accommodate ourselves with the UN to have free access to presidential sites."

His remarks, however, are unlikely to satisfy the U.S., which accuses Iraq of repeatedly breaking its promises.

Tonight's speech comes on the one-year anniversary of the start of the bombing campaign against Taliban and al-Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the speech will focus on "the growing menace that Saddam Hussein presents to people who want peace."

While Mr. Bush put the finishing touches on his speech, Democrats admitted the president would secure strong bipartisan support for action against Iraq because of domestic reasons and for fear about Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Many Democrats opposed similar legislation authorizing former president George Bush Sr. to wage the first Gulf War in 1991. The president, however, has painted the Senate Democrats as anti-war and insensitive to national security as he stumps for Republican candidates in next month's mid-term elections.

"I think we need to work to improve our image on that score by taking a more aggressive posture with regard to Iraq, empowering the president," Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana told Fox News.

Senate majority leader Tom Daschle told talk shows Mr. Bush is more likely to win support at the UN with a strong bipartisan congressional vote behind him. "At the end of the day, I think the UN is going to be with us," he said.

Senator Edward Kennedy said he would not vote for the resolution because Mr. Bush had not made a case for war against Iraq.

"The president hasn't made the case," Mr. Kennedy said on CBS Face the Nation. "A war ought to be the last resort, not the first resort."

A CBS-New York Times poll released yesterday suggests Americans also want their president to move slowly on Iraq.

By a two-to-one margin, they said they would prefer to see UN weapons inspectors have more time to do their work before military action is taken. Two-thirds said they approve of military action to remove Saddam Hussein as leader of Iraq, but a large majority -- 70 per cent -- want the Bush administration to get approval from Congress.

-- Tony
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