WASHINGTON -- President Bush is planning strategy with British Prime Minister Tony Blair about how they can rally reluctant countries behind their campaign to drive Iraq's Saddam Hussein from power.
Before their talks late Saturday at Camp David, Md., the leaders were expected to reaffirm their belief that Saddam's ouster is the only way to stop Iraq's pursuit -- and potential use -- of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Aides insist Bush has not settled on whether, or when, to use a military attack or other means to accomplish that goal. Blair, in contrast to other U.S. allies urging caution, has said the United States should not have to go it alone and pledged troops to any future effort.
The Camp David meeting comes as Bush and his advisers complete work on his Sept. 12 address to the United Nations. Aides involved in writing the speech say Bush intends to challenge the United Nations to take quick and tough action to disarm Saddam, or the United States will be obligated to act on its own. One early draft refers to Iraq as a "ticking time bomb."
Bush is strongly considering a U.N. Security Council resolution that would set a deadline for Iraq to open its weapons sites to unfettered inspection and to apply punitive action if the Iraqi president refuses.
Saddam refuses to allow inspectors into his country and says Iraq has already destroyed its weapons of mass destruction.
Senior Bush advisers acknowledge that Bush is setting the stage for a confrontation with Saddam while knowing the outcome eventually will lead to military force, perhaps early next year. The U.N. speech is a last-ditch attempt to build an international coalition, aides said.
Iraq's information minister, Mohammad Saeed Sahaf, said Saturday in Jordan: "'There is a mad administration in the United States of America which seeks to destroy anyone who says 'no' to it."
Blair has been an outspoken supporter of Bush's Iraq policy despite criticism from the British public, his own party and others in Europe.
He said this week that his government hoped to soon publish a dossier of evidence on the Iraqi president's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. Britain released a similar paper against Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network just days before the start of the U.S.- and British-led strikes in Afghanistan.
Blair also has helped to rally international support for action against Iraq, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Jacques Chirac and meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud.
Bush on Friday called Putin, Chirac and Chinese President Jiang Zemin -- all opposed to a unilateral U.S. military strike against Iraq. They promised to hear -- but not necessarily to endorse -- Bush's case against Saddam when administration teams visit their three capitals, senior officials said.
Putin, in his conversations with Bush and Blair, reaffirmed his reservations about a U.S. attack.
The Russian president "expressed serious doubts regarding the grounds for the use of force in relation to Iraq, in terms of both international law and global politics," the Kremlin press service said in a statement.
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