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Bush lobbies leaders on Iraq

President talks with Canada's Chretien

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, left, and President Bush wave to the crowd in Detroit, Michigan.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, left, and President Bush wave to the crowd in Detroit, Michigan.  


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In phone calls and one private meeting, President Bush intensified his efforts Monday to win international support for ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Bush met for 30 minutes with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien behind closed doors Monday in Detroit, Michigan, in advance of a press conference here the two men had about tighter security along the U.S.-Canadian border. (Full story) Going into the meeting, sources said that Bush hoped to convince the U.S. neighbor to back American action against Saddam.

Canada, which has supplied troops and logistical support in the war against terror, has said it would not support a military strike unless there is evidence that Iraq is posing an immediate danger to the world. Chretien did not mention the meeting -- nor Iraq -- in his comments at the border-security event.

Bush also discussed Iraq with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and the leaders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Denmark, which currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. Bush also planned to speak with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak before the end of the day.

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"This is part of the president's outreach and consultations with world leaders on the common threat that we face from Saddam Hussein and his drive to acquire weapons of mass destruction," a White House official told CNN.

The stepped-up diplomatic effort comes days before Bush goes before the United Nations, where he will deliver a speech Thursday and outline the administration's case against Saddam. A senior administration official said Bush will demand that Iraq allow unfettered access to U.N. weapons inspectors and comply with U.N. agreements made in 1991 to rid the country of all weapons of mass destruction, or face punitive action.

The White House accuses Saddam of seeking weapons of mass destruction, violating U.N. resolutions dating back to the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

French President Jacques Chirac, in a New York Times interview published Monday, said he believes the U.N. should set a three-week deadline for Iraq to allow weapons inspectors to re-enter Iraq, and that if Saddam did not comply, the U.N. Security Council should pass a resolution on whether to back military force.

"If Iraq accepts, great," he said. "If Iraq refuses -- and to put it frankly, not much has been done to make it accept -- if it refuses, then it's up to the Security Council to deliberate and decide what must be done and notably whether a military operation should be undertaken or not."

Fleischer would not say how Bush feels about the Chirac proposal, but added, "The president welcomes other leaders weighing in."

"It's clear that both the Congress and the U.N. are returning to an issue that had not gotten sufficient attention in recent years, and now some muscle looks like it's being put at least rhetorically into the deliberations of the world's leaders," he said.

In an interview with CNN, Vice President Dick Cheney said previous international efforts to contain Iraq have failed -- which "puts us in the position we are in today where we even have to think about the possibility of military action in Iraq." (Full story)

Cheney said the president has not made a decision on what to do about Saddam, but said, "We are not going to simply stand by."

CIA director George Tenet and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice plan to brief congressional leaders, including the leaders of national security-related committees, about Iraq Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, told reporters.

Last week, Bush said he would seek congressional approval before taking action against Iraq. Monday, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, told reporters he does not want the wording of any such congressional resolution to be "overly specific."

"You don't want it just a carte blanche," he said. "But the same time, you know, the problem we're dealing with is multifaceted and in a number of places." He said Congress and the White House will work together on the wording of the resolution.

The administration got a boost Monday from an independent think tank in London, which warned that Iraq has the capability to assemble a nuclear weapon in months with some outside help.

The report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies also concludes Iraq retains "perhaps thousands of liters of anthrax" from before the Gulf War and wants to develop nuclear weapons.

But former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter dismissed the report, saying Iraq has no infrastructure to develop nuclear weapons.

"Where did it come from? Did they suddenly grow factories?" Ritter told CNN. "You build factories, not in a basement, not in a mountain cave. It's a modern industrial capability. Where did it come from?"

Ritter, a former U.S. Marine officer, was in Baghdad to speak to Iraq's parliament over the weekend. He warned that a unilateral U.S. attack would be a "historical mistake" that would set a poor example for other countries. China, for instance, could use the same rationale to attack Taiwan, or India to attack Pakistan, he said.

"Basically, it will turn the world into the Wild West, where everyone reaches for their six-shooter first and asks questions later -- and that is not the world I want live in," he said.

Annan said Monday the U.N. Security Council must weigh in on the Iraq crisis before a military conflict erupts.

-- CNN Correspondents John King, Kelly Wallace and Richard Roth and Producer Dana Bash contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 


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