Saddam can keep rule if he complies: Bush
* US president doubts Iraq will satisfy UN
By Bob Kemper
WASHINGTON: President Bush, who for months urged world leaders to help the United States topple Saddam Hussein, said Monday that the Iraqi leader could remain in power if he complies with United Nations resolutions, a prospect Bush considers unlikely.
“The stated policy of the United States is regime change,” Bush said at the White House. “However, if [Hussein] were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations, the conditions that I have described very clearly in terms that everybody can understand, that in itself will signal the regime has changed.”
Bush added, “We don’t believe he is going to change.”
In addition to wanting Hussein to disarm, Bush demands that the Iraqi leader halt his alleged support of terrorism, stop persecuting minorities in Iraq and account for soldiers missing from the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Bush also wants Hussein to let people who may have witnessed his alleged military buildup to leave Iraq to be interviewed without fear of reprisal.
Bush’s softened rhetoric toward the Iraqi leader comes as US diplomats are trying to persuade the UN Security Council to back a resolution creating another, tougher round of weapons inspection intended to dismantle Hussein’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
Unilateral emphasis muted: As the administration courts skeptical foreign leaders, Bush has placed less emphasis on the need to replace Hussein and focused instead on Iraqi disarmament. He continues to assert that military force may ultimately be needed to disarm Hussein, but he has moved away from the threat of a unilateral US attack.
“I believe the free world, if we make up our mind to, can disarm this man peacefully,” Bush said. “But if not—if not—we have the will and the desire, as do other nations, to disarm Saddam.”.”
Bush made his comments after a meeting with NATO Secretary General George Robertson.
Administration officials insisted Bush’s comments Monday — and similar remarks made by Secretary of State Colin Powell over the weekend — did not signal a change of policy at the White House.e.
Bush emphasized his resolve to use force against Hussein early on, in order to assure the Iraqi leader that the US was serious about his disarming, but it was never a foregone conclusion for Bush that military action would be necessary, administration officials said.
“Diplomacy needs to be backed by force, especially in matters like this,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday. “The only way to really plan on getting compliance would be to plan on changing the regime. And that’s something that this administration has taken seriously.” US revises UN proposal: Bush went to the United Nations more than a month ago seeking international support for US efforts to disarm Hussein, by military force if necessary. So far, however, the administration has made little visible progress.
Bush seeks a single resolution calling on Hussein to disarm and threatening the use of force should the Iraqi leader fail to comply.
Three of the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council, however, have balked at such an approach. France, with the backing of Russia and China, wants two resolutions, one authorizing new inspections and a second, to be negotiated later, that would spell out consequences. Only Britain has backed Bush’s approach.
US diplomats this week are circulating a revised proposal that would drop the threat to use “all necessary means” against Iraq and replace it with a much vaguer statement about “consequences” Iraq could face if it failed to comply with weapons inspections.
But Boucher added, “We’re also making clear it is time to wrap this up.”
The French ambassador to the UN, meanwhile, put a damper on prospects for quick agreement on a new resolution.
When asked if an agreement was close, Jean-David Levitte, replied: “I don’t think so.”-CT