US President George W. Bush said the United Nations must show "backbone" in disarming Iraq, and that Washington would "deal with the problem" otherwise.
"This is a chance for the United Nations to show some backbone and resolve, as we confront the true challenges of the 21st century, a chance for the United Nations to show its relevance," Bush told reporters after meeting Saturday with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
"But make no mistake about it, if we have to deal with the problem, we'll deal with it," the president added.
The comments were the latest in Bush's escalating rhetoric on Iraq. Berlusconi applauded that speech, and said Italy would would remain a faithful ally.
In his weekly radio address earlier Saturday Bush also focused on Iraq, saying "the status quo is totally unacceptable."
Reiterating much of his argument to the United Nations on Thursday, Bush harshly attacked Iraq's non-compliance with 16 UN resolutions.
"By supporting terrorist groups, repressing its own people and pursuing weapons of mass destruction in defiance of a decade of UN resolutions, (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein's regime has proven itself a grave and gathering danger."
Bush also welcomed congressional debate on Iraq expected next week, AFP reported.
"Congress must make it unmistakably clear that when it comes to confronting the growing danger posed by Iraq's efforts to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction, the status quo is totally unacceptable," he said.
Bush has urged the UN to fix a deadline for action against Iraq in "days and weeks", but Baghdad is pursuing more talks with the world body to try to avoid war.
"We must have deadlines, and we're talking days and weeks, not months and years," Bush told reporters late Friday.
Iraq and the United Nations are set to hold talks about the disarmament process "in three or four days", Arab League general secretary Amr Mussa said Saturday.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan would "resume discussions" with Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, Mussa told Al-Hayat daily.
Sabri, who met Saturday with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, was told by his French counterpart that the UN Security Council was united in the demand for Iraq to readmit inspectors, a French diplomat told AFP.
The five permanent members of the Security Council agreed to set a time limit for Iraq to let the UN resume arms inspections, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stated, according to AFP.
On Friday, foreign ministers of the five had a working lunch with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Iraq a day after US President George W. Bush demanded the council enforce its decisions that Iraq disarm or face unilateral US action.
There was "complete unanimity about the imperative of getting the weapons inspectors back into Iraq," Straw told reporters after lunching with the ministers of China, France, Russia and the United States. "There is unanimity about the patent, flagrant breach by Saddam Hussein of a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions in respect of weapons of mass destruction and much else," he said.
Asked whether the five agreed to present Iraq with a deadline, a key goal of the United States, Straw replied: "We didn't come to a conclusion about that. But, it is fair to say, a very clear understanding that if we are going to set an imperative to get those weapons inspectors back -- that has to mean a time limit."
Straw met with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russia's Igor Ivanov, Tang Jiaxuan of China, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin in Annan's office.
Powell had earlier said he would press for a "very tough" resolution, complete with a deadline for compliance.
"We have to work on resolutions that hold Iraq to account" for any activities related to developing weapons of mass destruction, "and it can't be resolutions of the kind we have seen in the past," Powell told CBS television.
There must be a new resolution "that has a deadline to it, that has firm standards to it and that would be tough, very tough," he added.
Ivanov, whose country is Iraq's closest ally on the council, called for a political settlement and called Iraq to fully comply with resolutions.
In a brief formal statement on behalf of the five, Ivanov said "ministers agreed that Iraq's non-compliance with Security Council resolutions is a serious problem and that Iraq should implement the resolutions."
"Today we started consultations to decide how the Security Council of the United Nations can implement all the resolutions," he said. (Albawaba.com)
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