WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Friday heralded the unanimous Security Council vote to force the disarmament of Iraq, promising "the severest consequences" for Saddam Hussein if he fails a final test to comply.
Bush, who spurred the council to action with a Sept. 12 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, said in a Rose Garden statement, "Iraq must now, without delay or negotiation, fully disarm."
Shortly before the vote, Bush made a last-minute plug for the resolution in separate morning phone calls to prime ministers Jean Chretien of Canada and John Howard of Australia.
"If Iraq fails to comply, the United States and other nations will disarm Saddam Hussein," the president said.
While the United States made major concessions to wary allies, the resolution meets the White House's key demands for tougher U.N. weapons inspections and the flexibility to take military action against Iraq if inspectors say Baghdad isn't complying.
At the same time, it gives Saddam "a final opportunity" to cooperate with weapons inspectors, holds out the possibility of lifting 12-year-old sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and reaffirms the country's sovereignty.
But Bush said he would not be handcuffed by the resolution, which he said addresses the concerns of allies "without jeopardizing our freedom of action."
"Iraq can be certain the old game of cheat and retreat ... will no longer be tolerated," he said.
Washington and London spent eight weeks lobbying all 15 Security Council members, many of whom fear Bush is overly eager to take military action against Saddam.
Bush's father led the country successfully through the Persian Gulf War, but stopped short of ousting Saddam. Many conservative Republicans, including members of the current president's inner circle, believe it was a mistake to let Saddam off the hook.
"The outcome of the current crisis is already determined," the president said. "The full disarmament of weapons of mass destruction will occur. The only question for the Iraqi regime is to decide how."
The president did not specifically threaten Iraq with military force, but said only that Saddam could avoid war.
"The United States prefers that Iraq meet its obligations voluntarily, yet we are prepared for the alternative," Bush said. "In either case, the just demands of the world will be met."
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