CAMP DAVID, Md. – President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Saturday the world must act against Saddam Hussein, arguing that the Iraqi leader has defied the United Nations and reneged on promises to destroy weapons of mass destruction.
“We owe it to future generations to deal with this problem,” Bush said as he greeted Blair at Camp David for a hasty brainstorming session on Iraq.
“The policy of inaction is not a policy we can responsibly subscribe to,” Blair said as he joined Bush in trying to rally reluctant allies to deal with Saddam, perhaps by military force.
“A lot of people understand that this man has defied every U.N. resolution. Sixteen U.N. resolutions he’s ignored,” Bush said.
The meeting came five days before Bush addresses the United Nations. The president is expected to challenge the international community to take quick, tough action to disarm Saddam, saying that without allied help the United States will be obligated to act on its own to remove Saddam, according to advisers involved in writing the speech.
Bush will tell the U.N. there is no time to waste; one early draft refers to Iraq as a “ticking time bomb.”
Senior Bush advisers acknowledge that Bush is setting the stage for a confrontation with Saddam, with the U.N. speech a last-ditch attempt to build an international coalition. The president assumes the showdown eventually will lead to military action, aides said. Key allies – including France, Germany and Russia – oppose the use of force against Iraq.
Bush said U.N. weapons inspectors, before they were denied access to Iraq in 1998, concluded that Saddam was “six months away from developing a weapon.” He also cited satellite photos released by a U.N. agency Friday that show unexplained construction at Iraq sites that weapons inspectors once visited to search for evidence Saddam was trying to develop nuclear arms.
“I don’t know what more evidence we need,” Bush said.
Still, more information will be presented as the president continues his effort to rally support at home and overseas for his views on Saddam, a senior White House official said Saturday. The official stressed the administration’s view that Saddam’s weapons capabilities have been consistently underestimated in the past.
After less than four hours of one-on-one talks, as well as larger discussions and dinner at the compound’s Laurel Cabin – which included Vice President Dick Cheney – Bush walked Blair on a wooded path back to his helicopter and the British premier headed off for London.
The session was an excellent one that focused on “the importance of rallying the international community” behind dealing with the threat Saddam poses, said Bush spokesman Sean McCormack.