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Iraq arms programme grave, growing: Bush

Kennebunkport (Maine), Oct. 5 (Reuters): Declaring Iraq’s weapons programme a “grave and growing” threat to the United States, President George W. Bush said today war might be unavoidable if Baghdad refuses to disarm.

“Our country values life and we will never seek war unless it is essential to security and justice,” Bush said in his weekly radio address from Kennebunkport, where he is spending the weekend at his family’s seaside compound.

Previewing a prime-time speech next week in which he will explain to the American people, the US Congress and the United Nations why the United States is prepared to go to war to disarm Baghdad, Bush called Iraqi President Saddam Hussein “a cruel and dangerous man” who had deceived the world about his weapons of mass destruction for 11 years.

“We hope that Iraq complies with the world’s demands,” he said. “If, however, the Iraqi regime persists in its defiance, the use of force may become unavoidable. Delay, indecision, and inaction are not options for America, because they could lead to massive and sudden horror.”

Bush will devote a rare, televised evening address on Monday to argue his case against Saddam and outlining the threat he believes is posed by Baghdad’s alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes.

He will deliver the 20-minute speech at 8 pm (0000 GMT on Tuesday) in Cincinnati, Ohio, a Midwestern venue that appears to have been chosen to show that he is seeking to prepare the American heartland for the possibility of war.

“The United States does not desire military conflict, because we know the awful nature of war,” Bush said. “The danger to America from the Iraqi regime is grave and growing.”

Bush’s radio address and Monday speech come as Congress is debating resolutions authorising the use of military force against Iraq if needed to deal with Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, UN Security Council members are discussing the terms of a new resolution demanding that Baghdad disarm or face the consequences.

Bush asserted that Iraq had stockpiled biological and chemical weapons in defiance of the United Nations, and was rebuilding facilities to make more. He said Saddam had longstanding ties to terrorist groups capable of and willing to deliver “weapons of mass death.”

“We cannot leave the future of peace and the security of America in the hands of this cruel and dangerous man,” he said.

“This dictator must be disarmed and all the United Nations resolutions against his brutality and support for terrorism must be enforced.”

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