Washington, Sept. 7 (Reuters): President George W. Bush, who today confers with his staunchest ally against Iraq, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, will challenge the United Nations next week to take quick, tough action to disarm Baghdad, a senior administration official said today.
As Bush and Blair prepared to told talks at Camp David to try to forge an international coalition for a possible attack on Iraq, the official said the President would lay out a strong case in his September 12 speech to the General Assembly for deposing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
“He's going to be very clear about the responsibilities of the United Nations and the flagrant defiance of Saddam Hussein,” the official said. “Whether the United Nations wants to be relevant or not depends on how they respond to this real threat and a decade of defiance by Saddam Hussein.”
The Washington Post reported today that Bush planned to tell the United Nations that unless it acted quickly, the United States would be forced to move on its own. A White House official said the speech was still evolving and it was unclear if this element would be included.
Unlike other US allies that have expressed deep reservations about launching a pre-emptive military strike against Saddam, Blair has embraced the US President’s aggressive stance.
“I hate war. Every sensible person does. But sometimes it is the right thing to do,” Blair said earlier this week.
British media have portrayed the talks between Bush and Blair as a “council of war” to light the fuse for a military conflict targeting Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and seeking Saddam’s removal.
But a spokesman for Blair described them only as “an opportunity to cover all issues stemming from Saddam Hussein’s continued violation of UN resolutions.”
The Bush-Blair meeting at the Maryland presidential retreat will come one day after the President sought support from the leaders of France, Russia and China, which along with the United States and Britain, are the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Blair met Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Saud Al-Faisal and also talked on phone to the leaders of France and Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced “deep doubts” about using force and French President Jacques Chirac said the Security Council should decide what action to take if Baghdad rejected the return of UN weapons inspectors.
Convincing sceptical U.S. allies will not be easy.
Many are worried about repercussions in West Asia.