Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters Monday that international attention seemed to be focusing now on strengthening U.N. demands for regular weapons inspections.
“One thing that’s clear as a result of the president’s consulting and of the president’s reminding the world of Iraq’s flagrant violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, it does appear that the movement is budding to put some force into previous U.N. resolutions,” Fleischer told reporters.
Fleischer’s comments came after French President Jacques Chirac proposed in an interview with The New York Times published Monday that the U.N. should craft a two-pronged plan to settle the Iraq situation. First, it should pass a resolution setting a three-week deadline for the return of weapons inspectors, who have been barred from the country since 1998. If Baghdad should continue to refuse inspectors, the French leader said, the U.N. should then consider whether to use military force.
Mr. Bush met with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien in Detroit to discuss issues ranging from the Iraq debate to post-Sept. 11 border security. Before leaving for Michigan, the president spoke on the telephone with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer of Turkey, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan and the president of the European Union, Denmark’s prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He also talked with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
Rasmussen said he supports the president’s decision to gather international support in the United Nations to ratchet up pressure on Saddam’s government.
“I stressed that if Iraq continues to refuse the U.N.’s demands, possible coercive measures should be carried out based on a mandate from the U.N. Security Council,” Rasmussen said in a statement that did not specifically mention possible military action.
But Annan said he worries about the “unexpected consequences” should the U.S. mount a strike on Saddam’s military infrastructure.
“What sort of Iraq do we wake up to after the bombing, and what happens in the region? What impact would it have? These are questions leaders I have spoken with have posed,” Annan told reporters.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who met with President Bush at Camp David in Maryland this weekend, echoed Bush administration statements saying Saddam’s government must be dealt with swiftly.
“The policy of inaction is not a policy we can responsibly subscribe to,” Blair told reporters Saturday. “The U.N. has got to be the way of dealing with this issue, not the way of avoiding dealing with it.”
President Bush is expected to present his case on Iraq to the international community during a speech to the U.N. in New York on Sept. 12.