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Congress Set to OK Iraq Resolution
( 2002-10-07 09:10 ) (7 )

Congressional leaders said a resolution authorizing war against Iraq, expected to pass with little dissent, will strengthen the U.S. hand at the United Nations and increase pressure on Saddam Hussein to disarm.

President Bush, after a weekend in Maine, returned to the White House and prepared to address the nation Monday night from Cincinnati. He was making the case against the Iraqi president on the one-year anniversary of the start of bombing in Afghanistan.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who has counseled caution in unilateral moves against Saddam, said he will vote for the resolution but only after trying to make it more to his liking.

A leading moderate Democrat suggested Bush was winning broad Democratic support for reasons of domestic politics as well as concerns about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Many Democrats opposed similar legislation that authorized the Persian Gulf War waged by Bush's father in 1991, and the party is still smarting from a perception as anti-war.

"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," Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, a leader of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, told "Fox News Sunday."

Bush requested a strong resolution that would have given him a virtual free hand to deal with Iraq's chemical and biological weapons arsenals and its nuclear arms research program by removing Saddam.

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers went to the White House and endorsed a somewhat narrower version. It would give Bush broad authority to use force to enforce relevant U.N. resolutions, with or without the cooperation of the United Nations.

Daschle suggested would be more likely to win the approval he has requested from the U.N. Security Council if the case for moving against Saddam were to rest on a congressional resolution.

"I think he will be," Daschle told NBC's "Meet the Press." "At the end of the day, I think the U.N. is going to be with us."

A House vote is expected Wednesday or Thursday, according to Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. Daschle said Senate passage should come by next week. Congress is getting ready to break for midterm elections.

Bush warned in his radio address Saturday that "delay, indecision and inaction ... could lead to massive and sudden horror" for the United States. Aides said Sunday his Cincinnati speech will answer lingering questions about why disarming Iraq is necessary, even by force if required.

The speech is meant to deliver in one cohesive 20-minute package Bush's arguments for force as a last resort, a senior Bush administration official said. The official said Bush probably will discuss his ideas for a postwar, post-Saddam Iraq.

"I'd like to hear him put Iraq in the context of all of the challenges and commitments" facing the United States today, including the war in Afghanistan, and "how are we going to sequence all of these," said Sen. Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Graham, D-Fla., also said on CNN's "Late Edition" on the consequences of difference actions against Iraq.

"If we don't handle this carefully, including doing our domestic law enforcement as well as our foreign policy, that we could face a significant increase in incidents of terrorism inside the United States," he said.

On the Sunday talk shows, Democrats indicated most of party members eventually, and soon, will offer all-out support or grudging acceptance of the resolution, especially if it is amended further.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., told Fox he considers the bipartisan resolution accepted at the White House "fine the way it is. But if we could, you know, allay those (remaining) fears in some way, certainly you'll always to be trying to reach out and get the broadest possible support in the Senate. And I think we will have."

Both Bayh and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., speculated that Saddam's removal, or even a serious threat of it, could help prevent war.

"Our clearly stated intention ... to give the president authority to take military action in Iraq, may, in fact, encourage some close to Saddam to take their own action to eliminate him and make a military action unnecessary," Lieberman said.

"When you're dealing with a bully and a dangerous bully like Saddam, the way to get him to do something you want him to do or get others to get him out of there is to be strong."

Also Sunday, Iraq's U.N. ambassador indicated that Baghdad would make Saddam's network of presidential palaces open to surprise U.N. weapons inspections, as the United States is seeking.

"Certainly we can accommodate ourselves with the U.N. to have free access to presidential sites," Mohamed al-Douri said on ABC's "This Week."



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