Congress Grants Bush War
Powers Against Iraq

By Vicki Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush turns his attention on Friday to the United Nations after the Senate joined the House in strong votes authorizing a possible U.S. attack on Iraq.
The Republican-led House and Democratic-led Senate by wide margins approved the resolution that Bush wanted to reinforce his demand that the U.N. Security Council threaten the use of force, if necessary, to enforce its requirements that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein abandon programs for biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.
"The Congress has spoken clearly to the international community and the United Nations Security Council," Bush said in a statement issued after the early-hours vote.
"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.
The House earlier Thursday passed the resolution 296-133 after three days of debate.
Under intense pressure from the White House, which wanted a big bipartisan majority in Congress to strengthen its hand in its confrontation with Iraq, the Democratic-led Senate passed the war powers resolution, 77-23.
The Senate vote that capped a week of debate came after lawmakers explained the votes they intended to cast that could lead to war.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, helped give Bush the sizable win he sought by announcing he would support the resolution despite earlier reservations.
Democrats were split, with 29 voting for the resolution and 21 against it. Also voting against it were Republican Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and independent James Jeffords of Vermont.
"For me, the deciding factor is my belief that a united Congress will help the president unite the world. And by uniting the world, we can increase the world's chances of succeeding in this effort, and reduce both the risks and the costs that America may have to bear," Daschle said.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat who initially criticized the war powers resolution as too broad, said he decided to back it "because we should support compelling Iraq to make good on its obligations to the United Nations."
Biden also said "a strong vote in Congress increases the prospect for a tough new U.N. resolution on weapons inspections, which in turn decreases the prospects of war."
But a number of Democrats said the resolution set a dangerous precedent for unilateral pre-emptive strikes, that Bush had not made a case that Iraq posed an imminent threat, and that conflict in Iraq would detract from efforts to root out terrorist groups they said posed a greater threat.
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 U.N. Security Council resolutions -- a charge Iraq denies.
While Iraq has agreed to allow arms inspectors to return after a four-year absence, the 15-nation U.N. Security Council is locked in negotiations on how intrusive it wants U.N. inspections to be.
Bush insists the Security Council resolve to use force if Baghdad does not comply with inspections, with a threat now endorsed by Congress that Washington would lead an attack if the United Nations does not.
The council is expected to hold an open debate on Iraq next week, perhaps even before a resolution on possible military action is formally introduced, council members said Thursday.
While Cameroon's U.N. ambassador, Martin Belinga-Eboutou, this month's council president, is consulting the body's membership on a date, most members interviewed expect the meeting next week, possibly by Wednesday, with some 100 speakers addressing the council.
France, which is leading criticism of a U.S.-drafted measure that was circulated informally, stands to benefit from a public meeting, where ambassadors may speak against any unilateral American military strike and in favor of giving weapons inspectors an opportunity to do their work first.
The U.S. draft would rewrite the ground rules for inspections and allow any U.N. member to decide, without further council consultation, when Iraq has violated any terms of the new resolution and then launch a military strike.
France wants two resolutions, which Russia and China back to varying degrees. The first would say that the council had to meet immediately after a report by U.N. arms inspectors of "any serious failure by Iraq to comply with its obligations" and "consider any measure to ensure full compliance."
Another resolution would be needed to authorize a military strike, if necessary.


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