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Congress loads Bush’s Iraq-attack gun

Washington, Oct. 11 (Reuters): The US Congress early today granted President George W. Bush the authorisation he sought to wage war if necessary to disarm Iraq, as the Senate followed the House of Representatives to support him with overwhelming votes.

Handing Bush a major victory, the Democratic-led Senate voted 77-23 for a war powers resolution negotiated between the White House and congressional leaders backing a possible use of force to rid Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction and possibly oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The Republican-led House earlier yesterday passed it 296-133.

Bush has sought the congressional resolution as the United States presses the UN Security Council to adopt a tough new measure demanding that Saddam abandon any programmes for biological, chemical or nuclear weapons or face possible military consequences.

“With tonight’s vote in the United States Senate, America speaks with one voice,” Bush said in a statement, saying Congress “has spoken clearly to the international community and the United Nations security council.”

“Saddam Hussein and his outlaw regime pose a grave threat to the region, the world, and the United States. Inaction is not an option, disarmament is a must,” Bush said.

Iraq pledged to give up weapons of mass destruction following the 1991 Gulf War. But the Bush administration accuses Saddam of developing those weapons in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions — a charge Iraq denies.

Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat who earlier expressed reservations on Bush’s Iraq stance, said on the Senate floor he would back the resolution, helping to ensure the broad bipartisan vote Bush wanted.

With Democrats divided on the Iraq issue, Daschle — the top Democrat in Congress — said the language of the resolution was much better than Bush’s original proposal and was now “a statement of American resolve and values.”

“Because I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice at this critical moment — I will vote to give the President the authority he needs,” Daschle said. But West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, who said Bush had not shown that Iraq posed an immediate threat and argued the highly-charged vote should be put off until after the November 5 congressional elections, worked to delay the vote, which came in the early morning hours.

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