WASHINGTON -- Warning that Saddam Hussein "will be stopped," President Bush challenged the United Nations on Thursday to quickly pass a tough second resolution ensuring Iraq's disarmament by force if necessary.
"The U.N. must not back down," Bush said at the White House. "All the world can rise to this moment."
Bush, with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell at his side, also warned Baghdad not to engage in any "empty concessions" and "transparently false denials" as part of a "last-minute game of deception."
"The game is over," he said.
Bush's diplomatic dare came as the administration launched an intensive campaign to persuade key allies to endorse an attack on Iraq if it fails to fully disarm very soon, White House officials said. Seeking a second U.N. resolution is also designed to address reluctance by Americans and key foreign governments to go to war without international consensus.
But it may be tough going, despite Powell's sweeping presentation of U.S. intelligence about Iraq's arms programs at the U.N. Security Council this week. French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that France remains opposed to imminent military action, despite the case Powell presented Wednesday.
"We refuse to think that war is inevitable," Chirac said.
Russia and China, two other key veto-wielding Security Council members, also continue to call for U.N. inspections to be given more time.
Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's closest ally on Iraq, conceded Thursday that launching a war without a U.N. mandate would be a tough sell at home. A recent survey reported that 84% of Britons oppose military action without international support and 43% are opposed under any circumstances.
"If there were a second U.N. resolution, then I think people would be behind me. If there is not, then there is a lot of persuading to do," Blair told the BBC.
Blair is particularly critical to the U.S. effort on Iraq because Britain is expected to take the lead in crafting a second resolution, as it did last fall with the first resolution that called for the resumption of weapons inspection under the threat of force.
A new resolution authorizing the use of force is unlikely to be introduced until after the Feb. 14 progress report by top U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, according to U.S. and British officials. There are also a range of other issues that must be sorted out, including whether to include an ultimatum to Iraq with a deadline for its compliance.
Thursday's presidential statement came shortly after Powell told Congress that the showdown with Iraq will conclude "one way or another" in the next few weeks and as Blix headed for Baghdad conceding that this could be his last trip.
Calling on the world body to renew its resolve and purpose, Bush said the Security Council should affirm that it is able and willing to meet future dangers by following through now on Iraq's failure to surrender its weapons of mass destruction.
Given one last chance in November to peacefully disarm, the Iraqi president is "throwing that chance away," Bush said. "The dictator of Iraq is making his choice. Now the nations of the Security Council must make their own.
"Saddam has made Iraq into a prison, poison factory and a torture chamber for patriots and dissidents. Saddam Hussein has the motive and the means and the recklessness and the hatred to threaten the American people. Saddam Hussein will be stopped," Bush said.
In confrontational language, he said the time has come for the Security Council to decide if it is willing to stand behind Resolution 1441, passed unanimously in November.
"By demanding the immediate disarmament of Iraq, the U.N. Security Council spoke with clarity and authority. Now the Security Council will show whether its words have any meaning ... [when] those demands are defied and mocked by a dictator," Bush said.
"Resolutions mean little without resolve," he said.
If the Security Council does not act, the United States will not wait to see what terrorists or terrorist states might do with chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons, he added. The United States, with a coalition of willing nations, is prepared to take "whatever action is necessary" to defend itself by disarming Iraq.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Powell said any hope for diplomacy to succeed would depend on whether the Iraqi regime shows "a serious change of attitude and the commitment to comply that one can believe in."
Powell told the committee that his U.N. presentation had begun to persuade allies and that there is now greater support "than some might think" behind a second resolution condoning the use of force, which was underscored during his meeting with all 14 other members of the Security Council.